Airbnb assumes itself as a business travellers solution

The platform has launched a service dedicated to business tourism and is committed to enter this segment, namely in Portugal, but still has to overcome some reservations from event planners.

Airbnb was born precisely because there was no hotel capacity in San Francisco to host, in 2007, some design events in the city. Two of the founders of this accommodation rental platform, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, decided to make their home available to welcome participants, with breakfast included, which helped them paying the bills. From there to launching one of the most successful businesses of recent years was a small step.

Ten years later, the company is committed to gaining space in the MI sector, although many players operating in the segment have doubts about its service. "More and more people view business travel as an integral part of their normal social life. The first priority, of course, is to get to the business meeting in time, but that does not stop you from exploring the destination city in your free time. With Airbnb, it is possible to bring together the best of both worlds, to live the city and work at the same time," Ricardo Macieira, the country lead of the platform in Portugal, explained to Event Point.

It was with this aim that Airbnb launched a product dedicated to those who travel in business and that now begins to bear fruit. Still, without concrete data on the national market, Ricardo Macieira said that "globally, more than 250 thousand companies - in more than 230 countries and territories - are registered to use Airbnb on business trips. In 2016, the number of business trips on Airbnb tripled and, currently, almost 10% are for business reasons," he mentioned, also revealing that "the difference between a business trip and a leisure one is increasingly blurred, since more than 50% of business travels on Airbnb include Saturday night." And this helps the group to assert itself as more than just a company solely dedicated to the more traditional housing market for holidays.

Airbnb has been actively working on some of the world's biggest events, “such as South by South West (SXSW) in Austin, Texas (USA), the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Web Summit in Lisbon or even the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where we were official partners of alternative accommodation," the Portugal leader of the North American giant reported.

In spite of this evolution, for the sector professionals, who often have difficulty in lodging the participants in congresses, events and incentives in more traditional hotel units, the use of this platform is a reality, but still facing some doubts. A study conducted and published last year by the British magazine Meetings & Incentive Travel concluded that event planners have concerns about safety and trust in this accommodation. In addition, companies are faced with problems of lack of standardisation in relation to hotels. However, 12% of respondents said they intended to use the service.

Booming Portugal

Airbnb is optimistic about the Portuguese business tourism market. Ricardo Macieira highlighted two events in which the platform saw requests increase exponentially. "In the weeks leading up to Pope Francis's visit, the number of ads in the city of Fátima increased tenfold compared to the same weeks in 2016. We also have the example of last year's Web Summit, where Lisbon owners sharing their space in Airbnb obtained an extra income of more than 2.8 million euros in that period," he added.

These Airbnb clients, according to Ricardo Macieira, are seeking "accommodation as close as possible to the place where the event is held, to avoid major inconvenience. However, business travellers, by opting for accommodations available on the platform, seek to live the cities as real residents, hence also staying longer," explained the platform's country lead.

Airbnb believes it is prepared to face the obstacles that can be placed by this market and highlights the advantages of its way of operating. "As a community-based model, leveraging existing resources at destination, Airbnb allows you to avoid unnecessary or oversized investments; it helps benefits to come more directly to local residents; and it represents a more innovative, economic, social and sustainable alternative to achieve your objectives," said Ricardo Macieira.

Citur uses platform to benchmark

João Luís Moita, from Citur, already uses Airbnb, but with the aim of comparing prices in the cities. The head of this DMC admitted that "some participants prefer this type of accommodation" and explained that the use of this platform helps "to be more sensitive to the pricing of city accommodation." João Luís Moita still does not see Airbnb as a way to get around the lack of response in more traditional hotels, but believes that it can help "longer stays (for temporary foreign staff) and occasionally."

Alexandra Noronha

Tags: AirBNB, Event Planners