coworkers having a meeting in a house
Half the price of traditional accommodations, more and more companies are realizing that it pays to book work-related travel through Airbnb for Work. — Airbnb

With collaboration in the workplace moving beyond the traditional work space, Airbnb eyes significant growth catering to business professionals eager to work outside the office’s four walls.

Modern workers are gravitating toward more lively and diverse off-site settings — business and social, out-of-town and local — that inspire teams to perform their most creative and productive work, according to new research conducted on behalf of the home-sharing platform.

Today’s employees view their work environment differently, depending on where they are in their career and in the world. Shifting patterns in Airbnb’s business trip bookings also show professionals are blurring the lines between business and leisure with greater frequency, David Holyoke, global head of Airbnb for Work, told CO—.

“More than 30% of Airbnb for Work bookings in the last year included a weekend night,” Holyoke said, suggesting business travelers are adding a night’s stay to take in the local attractions. “Nearly 60% of those trips had more than one guest,” he added. “And, of the 60% of Airbnb for Work trips with more than one guest, nearly 40% had three or more guests,” suggesting business travelers are bringing family to enjoy down time when they are not working.

“We are definitely seeing the lines blur as professionals push companies for personalized business travel and wellness on the road,” Holyoke said.

It’s this growing trend of blending work and play that drove the August 2018 unveiling of Airbnb for Work, the new name for the Airbnb for Business unit created five years ago. The rebrand reflects a new strategy to attract not only those who travel for business, but all working professionals.

Founded in 2008, Airbnb has a valuation at $31 billion and has been profitable for two years. CEO Brian Chesky said Airbnb will be ready to go public this year and with the recent hiring of a former Amazon executive as its CFO, speculation is high that Airbnb could be among the hottest IPOs of 2019, along with Uber, Lyft, Instacart and Pinterest.

We are definitely seeing the lines blur as professionals push companies for personalized business travel and wellness on the road.

David Holyoke, global head of Airbnb for Work

Not just road warriors, but homebodies, too

Holyoke said about 75% of business professionals don’t travel for their jobs, which represents a huge opportunity to build the Airbnb for Work community. “The focus of Airbnb for Work is evolving more into the ‘future of work,’” he said. Specifically, how it can help companies foster a sense of belonging in the workplace and help them extend their culture to activities outside the office to attract, motivate and retain talent.

Work-related activities that take place outside the office but do not involve travel include team-building and social outings, such as a pottery and cooking classes, brainstorming sessions, educational workshops and group dinners hosted at local venues. To tap into these experience-driven work activities, in January, Airbnb announced it acquired Gaest.com, an online marketplace where companies can book short-term rentals of meeting spaces for all types of employee events.

While enticing companies to book space on the platform for their nontraveling workers is an opportunity for new growth, it’s still the business traveler and those relocating for their jobs who represent Airbnb for Work’s bread and butter. To date, more than 400,000 companies worldwide have signed up with Airbnb for Work, giving them access to online tools to book and manage travel for their employees. Integration with the widely used travel and expense management platform Concur means that Airbnb listings appear side-by-side with hotel listings; and dashboard enhancements and filters help businesses ensure the accommodations they book through Airbnb for Work comply with their own travel policies, such as limits on room rates.

 woman sitting outside with laptop
Airbnb for Work is now marketing not only towards business travelers, but also for employees looking to conduct work or work-related activities in an off-site premises. — Airbnb

Thousands of companies sign on to Airbnb for Work each week

Businesses of all sizes are coming on board to Airbnb for Work—from large enterprise companies, to small businesses with a handful of employees each, to sole proprietors and freelancers.

Companies seeking to contain costs by hiring contractors for project work rather than adding full-time staff to payroll are using the platform to book accommodations for these short-term workers, Holyoke said. Extended stays of 14 days and longer booked via Airbnb for Work have nearly tripled in the past year.

We continually add thousands of companies every week to the Airbnb for Work program, Holyoke said. “We expect to continue to see large growth — no slowing down on that, going forward.”

A major goal for Airbnb for Work this year is encouraging its existing base of corporate clients to book more work trips. Holyoke said he and his team are focused on “going deeper” to understand what companies need and how to make booking easier. “Now the conversation isn’t ‘Why would I use Airbnb for Work?’ but, ‘How does it fit into my company’s program?’” he told CO—.

Airbnb bookings are less expensive – 50% cheaper – than traditional accommodations, a claim supported by short-term rental tracking firm AirDNA. And, on so-called “compression nights,” when a major event in town brings hotels to peak occupancy and room rates soar, Airbnb’s diverse inventory of overnight accommodations are attractive to corporate travel managers.

“There are many times where our employees are traveling for varied periods of time, or to cities where there is high demand for lodging, like for a major conference or event,” said Jody Jannisse, senior director, global travel, at apparel retailer Gap, in a press release. She said the Airbnb for Work platform provides the amenities, options and flexibility Gap employees need when traveling for work.

Airbnb is also working to make it easier to book at boutique hotels through the platform, Holyoke said in late February, just a week before Airbnb announced it would acquire HotelTonight, a booking site for boutique and independent hotels.

Looking ahead, Airbnb for Work seeks to enhance engagement with its established base of 300,000 corporate customers, emphasizing the advantages of booking employees in private homes through the platform.

Advantages include “wellness and longer-term stays, having a place to cook your own meals, having the comforts of home and combining a little bit of work and downtime with traveling with colleagues for collaboration and team productivity,” he said. “We are focusing on those ‘use cases’ and going deeper with companies” to understand their needs and the best opportunities to accommodate new ways business professionals work today.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published March 26, 2019