Airbnb claims only on the first page of its business plan
It’s a statement with probably enough of an edge to it to worry hospitality providers – and others – the world over, but clearly Airbnb has ambitions to grow further.
Olivier Gremillon, managing director for EMEA at the accommodation sharing giant, was speaking at the Phocuswright Europe conference in Dublin last week when he triggered another sharp intake of breath amongst fellow delegates.
Airbnb has more than doubled its customer base in the past year, jumping from 15 million in May 2014 to 35 million within just 12 months.
Gremillon says there are “lots of opportunities” for the company to expand further, beyond just adding more renters in more cities around the world.
One of the first looks into its strategy came last year with the launch of the Neighborhoods programme, whereby renters can provide more services than a room or apartment for a trip.
Guided tours and tickets for attractions seems an obvious play for Airbnb, but without giving very much away Gremillon hints that there are “more opportunities for us in the overall trip”.
A fascinating angle to all this talk of growth into new areas coincides with the obvious idea that there is still plenty of room for growth in the core business.
Teeing up the later discussion with Gremillon, Phocuswright vice president of research, Douglas Quinby, says that 70% of travellers do not even consider “getting into rentals” at this stage, leaving the door wide open for Airbnb and its ilk to continue their awareness raising of the concept of renting instead of fully serviced accommodation.
The reason why consumers prefer the hotel stay is primarily around that notion of “fully serviced” – people enjoy a hotel for elements such as food and beverage, front desk and concierges, daily “maid” service and in-room amenities.
But perhaps that is where Airbnb’s existing accommodation inventory can evolve to, or where new types of properties can join.
Adding those conveniences – a more structured, serviced experience – could encourage new accommodation providers to join the Airbnb fray, where perhaps they initially thought their proposition didn’t fit the Airbnb-type ethos.
There is also the idea that, over time, Airbnb will attract more corporate travellers.
It is starting, of course, whether it’s officially or unofficially.
Some 10% of its user base is considered to be travelling for business, helped in part by a deal Airbnb signed with Concur in July 2014 so that corporate travellers are able to directly book Airbnb accommodation.
Even the giants of the distribution chain, such as Travelport, have relaxed their previous positions over the sharing economy.
And still, Gremillon says, there is plenty of room for it and the likes of HomeAway to co-exist.
Traditional vacation rentals are generally the secondary residences of their owners, whereas Airbnb listings are more often a room within a person’s primary home or an entire property is made available when the owner is away.
Obviously there is nothing to stop Airbnb moving into the former (and it undoubtedly has those types of properties on its portfolio).
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