By Jennifer Jones
We’ve all been watching how Airbnb is disrupting the lodging industry. While it’s already encroached into the hotelier space of leisure travelers, it’s beginning to make its mark on the corporate traveler as well. On June 8, Airbnb announced a revolutionary new product for the business traveler – Airbnb for Business. It’s pretty slick. Hoteliers, take note, and make sure you are doing everything you can to provide your corporate guests the comforts of home, because last week, they procured $1B in financing to grow the company and that’s a lot of kale.
Many of us have been sitting at home and have seen the new TV advertisement reaching out to millions of people who may have not even known what Airbnb is. Think about how many times you see a commercial for your favorite hotel brand? Up until now, most of us only thought of Airbnb when we were vacationing. We usually never considered Airbnb or even VRBO.com when traveling for business because of things like limited check-in times, lack of amenities, or like Forest Gump says, “you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Airbnb for Business has changed all of that now. More than 50,000 companies have now booked travel through Airbnb for Business and heavyweights like Google and Salesforce offer it as a corporate travel option. Perks of using this service include 24-hour check-in as well as a booking platform for travel managers in which stays can be expensed directly to the company. Properties that qualify for this service have to be entire homes or apartments, must be non-smoking and pet free, as well as offer amenities that cater to a business traveler, like WI-FI, workspace, irons, hair dryers and shampoo. 60 percent of the listings have five stars.
But what’s the mean reason we stay at Airbnb in the first place? Because it feels like home. Traveling alone and dread going out to dinner by yourself? No worries, these listings offer kitchens that are well stocked. So pick up a bottle of wine and eat dinner in. Relax on the couch and stream movies to the TV. Set the coffee maker to go off in the morning and make yourself a nice healthy breakfast instead of grabbing that bagel on the go.
From a technology perspective, the user experience of booking on the Airbnb platform is very fluid. The booking widget is located above the fold and very simple to access. And the portal even assists property hosts with a mini “revenue management system” built in to help suggest rates based off of the demand Airbnb sees on their entire site. Hotels should use this as an example to gather design tips that can improve their user’s booking experiences. Make sure when guests access your page they never have to scroll down to access the widget and that the call to action buttons are extremely well highlighted. Tell a story of your property with great imagery.
This week at HITEC, hotels and resorts will have access to many vendors who can help you improve the look and feel of your website, give you tips on where buttons should be placed and how to best set up your site to achieve higher conversion. Maybe offer services during the booking process that allows corporate travelers some of the comforts of home, like requesting some of their favorite snacks for their room. Maybe even kale?
Jennifer Jones is president at J2 Hospitality Solutions, a technology consulting firm. She is an active member in the HFTP Rocky Mountain chapter, and she has spent her entire career in the hospitality technology space on both vendor and property sides of the spectrum. Jones is a 1997 graduate of Penn State University’s School of Hospitality Management.