Airbnb predicts that there will be 80 million room nights booked globally during 2016, although only 3% of the UK population have said they have used this service. Of the 3% that have used Airbnb, the fastest growing ‘sharing economy’ accommodation provider, 97% say they are keen to place a repeat booking. Despite Airbnb launching a business traveller arm in 2009, most of their bookings are from younger travellers avoiding the traditional tourist hot spots and opting for up and coming neighbourhoods.
Following the introduction of a ban earlier this year in Berlin on renting out properties to Airbnb, landlords who rent out more than 50% of their apartments on a short term basis without a licence, face a fine of € 100000. Other European cities are watching this development with interest to see what effect this legislation may have on the number of property listings in Berlin and whether landlords decide that the risks outweigh the potential rewards.
The travel press has seen much talk of hotels cautiously watching Airbnb to see what affect, if any it has on their business, but in our opinion Airbnb is not, and will not be the first choice for business travellers for a few key reasons:
Safety – companies have a duty of care when sending staff away for business and risk management is a major deciding factor when booking accommodation. Booking a spare room in someone’s home can leave travellers at risk – is the local area safe? Is the building safe? What happens in the event of an emergency such as a fire or if there is a power cut? Likewise are the owners up to speed with the property maintenance, do the locks work, is the air-conditioning or heating safe and in working order?
Cost – sure, the rates might be cheap but additional fees add up quickly. If your chosen property is not in a convenient location for public transport, travel costs can easily mount up.
Travel Delays – Picking up the keys for your rental is vital. If you’re delayed in transit, can you easily contact your keyholder? Even if you do arrive on time what happens if you cannot locate the keyholder? Having to book a hotel last minute if the worst happens suddenly makes the cheap Airbnb rate not quite so affordable!
Cleanliness and comfort – Standards of cleanliness can vary greatly, even in hotels across the world. If you search online you don’t have to go far to see nightmare reviews and photographic evidence of Airbnb horror stories- there’s even a dedicated website for them. Cleanliness should be a given wherever you stay and should not even have to be on your radar when travelling for business. Most corporate travellers are accustomed to a certain level of amenities and home comforts, like clean towels and a hairdryer. When using peer to peer accommodation you have no guarantee you’ll receive even the basics.
Wi-Fi – business travellers need to be able to stay in touch with colleagues and family when away from home, as well as be able to complete everyday work tasks or maybe even host a meeting, with 56% of business travellers rating Wi-Fi connection as the most needed amenity when booking a room. If travellers can’t get access in their room, finding a local business centre or internet cafe can be time consuming, not to mention expensive and inconvenient.
There’s no denying that for leisure travellers Airbnb certainly can tick some of the boxes. In some respects, its popularity has highlighted that travellers don’t always want to stay in a tourist hot-spot and they are open to exploring more of the local culture. The rise of so-called ‘Bleisure’ travellers means that flexible accommodation is more in demand than ever, and especially so with the diverse needs of today’s corporate traveller. Whilst cheap and cheerful accommodation can pass for a city break with friends, businesses need added security and amenities to make sure business trips are a success and not a liability.