Airbnb inks deal with Flight Centre in bid to capture business traveller market

Global accommodation startup Airbnb has inked a deal with travel bookings company Flight Centre to link up more corporate customers with Airbnb hosts across Australia.

The partnership will mean customers booking stays through Flight Centre’s corporate brands, including Corporate Traveller and Campus Travel, will have access to Airbnb for Business.

The for-business platform gives users access to only the highest-rated hosts and also lets travellers charge stays to their company directly, rather than through their own Airbnb accounts.

Speaking to SmartCompany this morning, Airbnb Australia’s country manager Sam McDonagh said the deal had been in the works for “many months”, and was reflective of the rapidly growing demand for business travel offerings.

“Business travel is the fastest-growing part of our business, and it now represents 10% of all bookings on the Airbnb platform,” McDonagh said.

“There’s a number of reasons for this, mainly the convenience of locations offered by Airbnb hosts, which allows for a combination of business and leisure travel – we call that ‘bleisure.””

The partnership with Flight Centre amps up Airbnb’s focus on business travel offerings, with Flight Centre executive general manager of corporate travel Andrew Flannery saying in a statement the partnership will offer something for ”those who are looking to experience something a little different to a traditional hotel stay”.

McDonagh says Airbnb is expecting to grow its share of the business travel market, particularly in Australia, saying even at 10% of bookings being for business trips, “we’re still under-penetrated relative to the overall business travel market”.

Studies from market research firm IBISWorld suggest business travel is a $835 million market in Australia alone.

First ever Airbnb’ers were business travellers

Despite the company only launching its Airbnb for Business offering in 2015, McDonagh says the original concept for the startup itself stemmed from a couple of business travellers, who were the first ever Airbnb guests at the home of founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky’s in 2008.

“They were part of a business design conference in San Francisco. These folks weren’t couch surfers or uni students, they were in fact business travellers,” he says.

McDonagh says the business was keen to ink the deal with Flight Centre because of a significant amount of “pent-up demand” from corporate travellers using Flight Centre’s travel options, saying many were already choosing to use Airbnb for leisure. The company has over 250,000 companies signed up to its Airbnb for Business program already.

The company has “high expectations” for Australians continuing to use the platform moving forward, and McDonagh says the type of trips Australians are taking with Airbnb are changing.

“We’ve certainly seen a lot of growth on both the host and guest side in Australia, and Australians are some of the most prolific users in the word,” he says.

“Not only do we take trips internationally, but we’re seeing an uptick of Australians travelling locally, from state to state and even from city to city.”

Reflecting on the partnership with Flight Centre, McDonagh says businesses should always strive to find unions where both sides benefit as much as possible.

“Successful partnerships are when both sides have something significant to bring to the table. It’s an opportunity for both parts of the union to benefit from the overall relationship, and that’s key to making it successful,” he says.

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