It’s been almost a full year (on February 7, to be exact) since Airbnb unveiled its partnership with SiteMinder, officially opening up the platform to a third-party hotel distribution network for the first time.
While previously, boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts could list independently on the site, SiteMinder became the first platform to act as a channel manager on a global scale, allowing its portfolio of properties (that meet certain Airbnb-style criteria) to be featured alongside existing Airbnb homes.
Nearly 365 days since the deal was announced, Airbnb is reporting a 152% increase in the number of hotel rooms available - or, more specifically, rooms available in properties categorized by hosts as “boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts and other hospitality venues like hostels and resorts.”
Although the company won’t share numbers around how much of that growth is attributed to SiteMinder, Airbnb hotels program manager Cammy Houser says SiteMinder is “a leading hotel partner for us, and one of our largest API partners.”
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She continues: “They are truly partners. It’s not just a technology integration. We’ve learned so much from each other, all focused on bringing magical travel to more and more people.”
Airbnb has stated the SiteMinder deal is not exclusive, and over the past year, the company has “significantly grown the number of software partners [we work with], both global partners and regional experts,” Houser says.
Although no other partnership on the level of SiteMinder has been announced, Houser does point to integrations with Availpro and Cloudbeds as highlights of 2018.
The growth Airbnb has seen around hotels has been a boon to its host community, as well, the company claims.
Nearly 90% of guests who used Airbnb to book a hotel room have returned to the site to book a room in a home or an entire home for their next trip, Airbnb says, which “demonstrates the power of Airbnb’s network effect and how private rooms, homes, boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts enhance this global network effect for guests and hosts.”
This idea of building loyalty was also discussed by Greg Greeley, who joined Airbnb as president of Homes from Amazon Prime, at The Phocuswright Conference in November.
He said the “secret sauce” of Amazon Prime has to do with driving repeat customers, and Airbnb plans to grow its host and guest community by building on the foundation of “great product ” - in this instance all of the accommodation options Airbnb provides.
Airbnb says its expanded hotel offerings also make it easier for consumers to find last-minute accommodations when homes are booked. To that end, Houser says it has been testing new ways to merchandize hotels for guests, including a homepage refresh and a new search filter.
Battle of the brands
Airbnb’s desire to go head-to-head with Expedia and Booking.com has been exhaustively covered in the news, and hotels are only one (albeit significant) component in that battle.
Still, Airbnb is wise to up its game in the hotels space - be that through new software partnerships (which it is doing) or by opening up its platform to larger hotel chains (which it hasn’t yet).
Another potential (though unconfirmed) move: The Wall Street Journal reported Airbnb was in informal talks to buy HotelTonight, which would boost its inventory and strengthen it against OTAs. (Of the rumor, HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank says, “We have heard rumors like this since our inception and we don't comment on them”; Airbnb says it has no comment to make.)
Wherever it goes next with hotels, Airbnb can be sure Booking.com and Expedia are, in turn, refining their private accommodation strategies - all in the name of owning the end-to-end traveler experience.
Airbnb has been laser-focused on building said experience (or at the very least, shopping around the rhetoric) but doing so in its own Airbnb way.
Eventually, all will come to a head when Airbnb lists on the public market. When - and to what extent its hotels business has contributed to that milestone - remains to be seen.