WHEN BUSINESS AND TRAVEL COLLIDES

Airbnb’s foray into business travel is taking the hotel industry by storm—but how far will it change the landscape of hospitality?

By Mira Soyza

p80Its inception happened when roommates, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, who couldn’t pay their rent decided to take advantage of an international design conference that was taking place in town that weekend. Seeing that the hotels were all sold out, they decided to turn their San Francisco loft’s living room into a bed and breakfast. They hosted three visitors that weekend— air mattresses were laid out in the living area for the guests to sleep on and homemade breakfast was served in the morning—and made more than USD1,000. Their bed and breakfast became an instant hit.

In 2008, the third co-founder, Nathan Blecharczyk who is a Harvard graduate and a technical architect completed the team. They started a website that provides listings of those with space or room to let for conferences attendees who are looking for alternative accommodation—and thus the first official website www.airbnb. com was born.

In its early years, its focus was in areas where high-profile events were held, and where hotels were scarce and there was little to no availability of alternative lodging. Today, their services have expanded to a variety of property types including homes and apartments, private rooms, castles, manors, tree houses, igloos, private islands–in short anywhere liveable. Airbnb became the go-to site for wanderlust and budget travellers.

Business unusual

With over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries— its brand slowly seeped into the general public’s consciousness to the extent that it has become mainstream now. Companies and businesses started to notice. In an era where corporate expense budgets have been slashed, private accommodations offered by Airbnb are a cheaper alternative and offer a refreshing change from the cookie cutter four or five-star business hotel rooms. Hence, the start of the corporate shift to the site.

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