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Airbnb's David Holyoke talks:
Airbnb's presence—and acceptance—continues to grow in the corporate travel space. Its business travel division team heads to the upcoming 2018 Global Business Travel Association Convention in San Diego with a new name and evolving use cases for corporate customers. BTN lodging editor Julie Sickel spoke to Airbnb for Work global head David Holyoke about the brand's development.
BTN: Last we spoke, you were seeing more acceptance of Airbnb among the corporate travel community.
Holyoke: We've had good growth momentum [during the past year]. We've really been bullish with how that's continued into this year. Our ability to bring in companies of all sizes continues to grow at a very fast clip for us. Where we're seeing the sharing economy in general within travel programs is a recognition by travel managers that this is happening, it is occurring. It's not a matter of "Should we do this?" It's that it is and "Let's talk through how to work together around the right use cases." Many times when we're bringing companies on, they're not surprised anymore by the number of employees within their organization that are using Airbnb, that have been expensing it, and they want to start talking about where it makes the most sense in their program.
BTN: Do you provide corporates that visibility into Airbnb usage once they engage, or are they generating it internally before coming to you?
Holyoke: A year ago, it was the "Ah-ha! I wasn't aware. I didn't really have visibility. I don't understand why somebody is doing this or using this." We used to hear a lot from companies that "This isn't happening in our program," and when we would show them, they were usually surprised. It took a while to progress those conversations because they were trying to get their arms around it. Today, because Airbnb has been in this space, people come to us proactively. We're having a lot more strategic conversations around the use cases and the employees … and that's bringing a lot of new users within companies onto the platform.
BTN: As you add new users, are the patterns of business travelers' stays changing?
Holyoke: Our fastest-growing segment right now in terms of length of stay is below three nights. It kind of validates that Airbnb for Work is becoming mainstream. It was always about that longer stay. That's still a very big part, but our highest growth rate is less than three nights. People are finding that as they get more and more comfortable on the platform, they have a better idea of what they want out of that trip, and length of stay is not necessarily the deciding factor anymore.
BTN: What's the reasoning behind the name change from Airbnb Business Travel to Airbnb for Work?
Holyoke: At the highest level, Airbnb for Business maybe wasn't as on brand as Airbnb for Work. When people are talking, it's "I travel for work." So people do business trips, but the nomenclature is evolving a little bit. The words intersect more and more. Additionally, we're not focused on just the traditional transient business travel use case. We're working heavily on relocations and mobility. And then there are other areas that we're working on with companies in general to think about how to unlock all professionals, not just those that always travel. There's definitely a bigger market for us in the future.
Our fastest-growing segment right now in terms of length of stay is below three nights. It kind of validates that Airbnb for Work is becoming mainstream. It was always about that longer stay."
BTN: With the city of New York's recent measure to further regulate Airbnb by collecting host data—as well as various local, state and federal governments trying to restrict Airbnb use—are travel managers still coming to you with legal concerns or questions?
Holyoke: We always have informed conversations with all companies we work with. They do their due diligence. They generally understand … the policy landscape. … We generally have very open conversations with our customers or potential customers around that. The fact that we now have over 500 agreements in place around the world certainly demonstrates that we continue to be legitimized by cities and states, as well as full countries, across the board. That's making it a lot easier for companies to move forward with us, but we always continue to have informed conversations where there are opportunities to do so.
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