Airbnb stresses it is making strides in duty of care for business travellers 

Airbnb is aggressively working to broaden its reach with corporate customers after declaring ambitions to double its business customer base by 2020.

Presently, business travellers represent roughly 15% of the company’s business, and Airbnb Global Head of Business David Holyoke said earlier this year at the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) convention the company is targeting growth to 30% over the next three years.

As private rentals become more mainstream for business travellers, Airbnb stresses it is working to address duty of care concerns. Mr Holyoke stated more than 300 people in the company are dedicated to trust and safety, and the company provides transactional data to third parties “so that we flow into the same processes that a duty of care programme should”.

“Do we have more to do?” Mr Holyoke stated. “Absolutely, but I would say everybody has more to do, and we’ll continue to do that as we move forward.”

Mr Holyoke stated there are different rules around hotels and homes, “but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to do more around the quality side and what does that offer in terms of the vetting, and offer folks…more visibility into how their employees are staying in an Airbnb and have a little more control over that”.

But safety and liability issues remain major concerns for corporate travel managers. According to research conducted by GBTA, 61% of travel professionals are concerned about the inability to collect traveller information from home share bookings. If those home sharing options were integrated into GDS systems, 52% of travel managers said that would increase the likelihood of including these options in their travel policies.

It is not clear how Airbnb and other home sharing sites would structure a relationship with GDS companies in terms of fees paid for bookings and other transactions. For now,  home-sharing reach in the corporate space could still be too low to facilitate meaningful discussions to create a distribution model for companies like Airbnb in the corporate sector.

However, Airbnb’s aspirations could create the impetus to jumpstart those conversations. Research by CWT Solutions Group conducted in late 2015 shows companies could save up to 37% using Airbnb accommodations, depending on the number of nights.

Airbnb estimates it has more than 150,000 business ready lodging listings, and it calculates employees from more than 250,000 companies have opted to use its private rentals for business. The average length of stay for business travellers at Airbnb properties is six nights.

Airbnb is positioning itself to captialise on the ever blurring lines between business and leisure travel. The company estimates that more than 50% of business trips booked on its listed properties in 2016 included a Saturday night stay. Airbnb urges business travellers not to put their lives on hold when they hit the road. The same could be said for the company’s ambitions to become a disruptor in the business travel space.

However, adoption of Airbnb has started to flatten sooner than some analysts have expected, with online travel agencies tipped as likely beneficiaries, a new report from Morgan Stanley has suggested. Airbnb is still forecast to generate some 155 million room nights in the US and Europe during 2018, up by 14% though.