Airbnb Still Eyeing Air Travel; What Could It Mean for Agents?

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Airbnb may have just unveiled a big expansion into luxury and business travel, but the company might not stop there. As reported in our partner publication Luxury Travel Advisor, in a recent interview with the Sunday Times (registration required), Airbnb Co-Founder, CEO and Head of Community Brian Chesky said that the company has “seriously considered” expanding into aviation with the goal of becoming a “one-stop shop for travel.”

In the interview Chesky compared the approach to that of another tech giant, Amazon, which has grown from an online book-selling business into a complete end-to-end retail experience.

What could such an expansion mean for travel agents? While agents affiliated with Concur can already book Airbnb listings through a recent partnership between the two companies, leisure travel agents we spoke with at a 2016 roundtable of Millennial travelers were more split on the issue. Marla Gibbons of Sklyar noted that Airbnb is forcing hotel companies to adapt and offer new experiences, and many agents reported seeing a lot of client interest in stays with Airbnb. At the same time, Blaine Horton of The Accomplished Traveler noted that an Airbnb stay includes many factors an agent has no control over due to a lack of contacts, and as a result he would rather not book them.  

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This isn’t the first time the company has teased an expansion into air travel. As far back as December 2016, Bloomberg reported a rumor that the company was considering a move into flight bookings. That was just after the company launched its Trips platform, which marked its expansion beyond vacation rentals into broader, “Live Like a Local”-style vacation experiences.

Airbnb also just celebrated its 10th anniversary, and as part of the event Chesky unveiled a 10-year “roadmap” that will see the company expand into luxury travel with its new Beyond by Airbnb tier, as well as an Airbnb Plus tier that will involve the company personally vetting individual properties. The company is also rolling out a number of collections aimed at niche markets like family travel, business travel, social stays, weddings, honeymoons, group getaways and dinner parties, and launching its own loyalty program, in competition with loyalty programs from major hotel companies.

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