Pros and cons of Airbnb for business travel
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Airbnb, an online service for accommodations, claims to be "a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodations around the world." As the popularity of the site grows, it's a short step until more travelers turn to the site to book accommodations in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries.
Road warriors, millennials, entrepreneurs and other business travelers have started using Airbnb as a viable alternative to traditional hotels, raising this question: Is Airbnb a good option for business travel? Is corporate America ready for the sharing economy?
There are fierce advocates of Airbnb as well as those who say "never again." Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of Airbnb for business travelers.
Pros of Airbnb
Business travelers have their own ways to define cost, comfort and convenience. Airbnb can offer positives on all three of these fronts.
Cost: Always a primary factor when booking for business, Airbnb is often better priced, particularly comparing cost per square foot. When traveling to industry events or booking last-minute travel in large cities, Airbnb has the potential to save a bundle, especially for group travel.
Conference hotel room blocks sell out quickly for mega-conferences and industry events. Assuming you are on the ball and get a room at one of the designated conference hotels for large Las Vegas conference such as CES or HIMSS, an in-block room runs $210 per night or $939 for the entire stay.
Airbnb can offer a three-bedroom penthouse on the Strip for $211 per night at $1,037 for the entire trip. Another Airbnb property in the same area is $183 per night, or $961 for the week. If you have several people attending the conference and have mandated corporate room sharing or are in startup mode, sharing a house is much less expensive than $939 per person for the week.
As for last-minute travel, let's take a trip to LA next week. A major hotel chain is charging $319 per night ($1,757 total). Airbnb, has a house listed for $180 per night ($1,112 total). Airbnb also has a larger house suited for five people at $380 per night or $2,427 for the week. Five people in separate rooms at the hotel listed above would top out over $8,500.
Comfort: For some, comfort may be a big king bed in a one-bedroom hotel. But the allure of houses rented via Airbnb often comes in the form of space to stretch out and additional amenities. Houses often come with kitchens, pools, parking and washers and dryers. The larger LA house mentioned above is a five-bedroom, four-bathroom, 3,606-square-foot house.
Convenience: What is convenience? Is it proximity to your destination/meeting/conference? Or is it ease of booking? While each booking must be individually analyzed, it is perfectly possible to book through Airbnb and have the same level of convenience you would expect from a hotel — especially when traveling to large conferences when the room blocks are sold out and the only available hotel is miles away from the host location.
Cons of Airbnb
No points: A common reason for business travelers to avoid Airbnb is the absence of loyalty rewards. All major hotel chains now offer loyalty programs where points are accumulated across their brands and are redeemable for free nights, upgrades and other perks. For some road warriors, no points can be a nonstarter.
Standardization of brands: Hotel chains know a thing or two about brand consistency. They want their customers to have a positive brand experience no matter the property. From color schemes, artwork and décor to staff uniforms and policies, chains generally make an effort to exceed customer expectations. As a result, you usually know exactly what to expect when booking at a chain hotel.
Safety: This is a major sticking point among those who prefer hotels to Airbnb. Potentially hazardous and risky arrival instructions, uncertainty surrounding others who may have access to the property while you are a guest, and unregulated safety standards raise red flags.
Lack of staff, amenities and outlets: When staying at an Airbnb property, there may or may not be a fitness center, a pool, laundry facilities or a safe to store valuables (there are mechanisms on the site to check before you book). For the most part, there is no hotel shuttle to pick you up at the airport, no front desk staff, bellman or concierge. Often there is no housecleaning, and maintenance concerns are not always met in a timely fashion.
Media outlets love to buzz about "the Airbnb takeover" and how concerned hotels are or should be about Airbnb. In response to the growing business traveler interest in its properties, Airbnb has upped the ante this past year, promising to cater to the business crowd and eventually adopt its offerings to the world of meeting and events. The company has created a "Business Travel Ready" designation for properties that offer Wi-Fi, a laptop-friendly workspace, an iron and more. Read the policy here.
I would love to hear what you think about Airbnb vs. hotel chains for business travel in the comments below.
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