Speaking at UFI’s Open Seminar Singapore, Airbnb’s business travel lead Kevin Hoong said the company is seeking to change the culture of business travel.
Hoong said business travel is seen as ‘putting life on hold’ and takes away from time with family and friends. “Three times more business travellers claim psychological insurance,” he told audiences. “We want to improve business travel so that people can actually feel like they live in an area.”
Airbnb is seeking to make destinations less anonymous, using its 3 million homes worldwide – twice the number of properties of the two largest hotel conglomerates combined.
“Business travellers enjoy the extra space they get, having a kitchen and living area. Being outside the business districts allows more options, so you can explore more areas,” he said.
Hoong discussed an IMEX delegate who said he wouldn’t have attended if it wasn’t for the rates of Airbnb. However, he said there can be a question of credibility, and confusion over checking in options. The solution was the Business Travel Ready, which has a criteria of offerings suited for businesses.
Airbnb also partnered with companies including American Express to drive up standards. Pointing to a picture from TV series Mad Men, Hoong said: “The goal is to make business travel exciting again. If you have interests, like whisky appreciation, we can match you with the right people.”
On the question of quality, Hoong said: “If you get a three star rating we will flag you, and send you an educational email. If it happens again, they will be removed from the platform.”
On the subject of regulations, Hoong said the challenge is working with governments on regulations written before the internet was invented.
“Not just Airbnb, but social media in general has created a situation where you have an online identity. The process takes time, and each company is unique, their travel patterns and destinations are different. Some companies want to wait for clearer regulations before committing, however.”