Airbnb has redefined travel by expanding its accommodation marketplace to millions of places to stay in more than 191 countries, from apartments and villas to castles, treehouses and B&Bs. With Experiences, people can see a different side to a destination through unique, handcrafted activities run by locals.
 
With a portfolio of nearly 5 million homes in 10 years, the company is now setting its sights on doing the same for business travellers. In this interview David Holyoke, Global Head of Airbnb for Work, reflects on the company’s success and its plans as new generations are pushing the boundaries of what they classify as travel.


The Jet: With a portfolio of nearly five million homes in ten years, what would you ascribe Airbnb’s success to?

David Holyoke: Our growth is based around truly understanding the goals and expectations of a generation of customers compared with a generation past. Generation X for example pioneered self-service and self-booking in travel; with Millennials it’s about the experience and the blurring of work and downtime. We are also beginning to think of Centennials as they start traveling and working – at Airbnb success is not about thinking one step ahead but seeing it as a continuum of changing needs and choices.
 
The Jet: With a healthy market share in leisure travel, why does Airbnb feel the need to expand its offering to business customers?
 
David Holyoke: Travel has made a remarkable recovery after the recession and there is strong competition among booking platforms to keep up with the demand for accommodation. Since establishing three years ago, corporate travel now constitutes 15% of Airbnb’s total business. By 2020 it will be 20%. Over 80% of this is spread across 15 countries – equally distributed between the US and Europe, and growing in Asia Pacific and Latin America.
 
The Jet: What about standardisation of the accommodation or properties offered to corporates? Do you have a mechanism to ensure quality?
 
David Holyoke: We categorise our accommodation and establish standards for each of these categories, providing the amenities our clients would expect such as a smooth check-in process, wifi, and flexibility around cancellations. For Airbnb Plus Homes, we have a 100-point inspection system to provide our customers with added peace of mind. We work closely with partners while personalising and curating our service across the globe.
 
The Jet: How does Airbnb maintain a lean mentality in the face of unprecedented growth?

David Holyoke: Timing and keeping in tune with generational needs and changing choices are key for us as a pioneering company. The challenge for any company is to evolve as its community evolves. Airbnb’s success lies in the simplicity of its platform – we are leading in terms of providing a seamless check-out, more relevant choice and personalisation, and ultimately handling payment and settlement of transactions seamlessly. We have been spared the frustrations many traditional travel providers experience with legacy systems.
 
Our data infrastructure keeps evolving and provides us with the flexibility and ability to draw insights on travel choices in real-time – ensuring that we continuously adapt and improve the quality of experience for our customers. AI is a cornerstone of Airbnb’s future and key to how we handle and structure our data.
 
The Jet: What is your view on payments in the travel landscape, and how do you collaborate with partners?

David Holyoke: It is encouraging to see virtual payment options with its benefits of one-time, quick reconciliations becoming more prevalent in the accommodation space where outdated practices like faxing are still prevalent.
 
We work closely with travel companies, OTAs, payment schemes and airlines to integrate Airbnb in the value ecosystem, booking tools and distribution channels, which is important in terms of maintaining full visibility of itineraries and providing our customers with the necessary peace of mind, also during emergencies.
 
Our expanding insight into destinations and experiences, our understanding of the new generation traveller and the access and visibility of our data make Airbnb a valuable partner in the world of travel.

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