In 2008, when Airbnb launched, while the public was curious and somewhat excited to explore new accommodation options, event/conference planners got a little nervous. At the time Airbnb’s focus was to allow travelers the opportunity to explore destinations from a more “authentic” experience as locals in cities around the world offered rooms or homes as places to stay at various prices and unregulated standards.
A decade later and Airbnb decides to take that “unregulated business model’ and offer new options for travelers, Airbnb Plus, which extends to a much more standardized style of service with ‘hotel-like’ amenities that have been verified for quality. They also introduced Airbnb Events, a service catering for all types of events offering the event holders the ability to add Airbnb homes as an accommodation option to their event attendees. Again our industry starts to sit up and take notice.
While some event planners have used the new tool offered by Airbnb, it has mostly been limited to manage the overflow of attendees who their accommodation past the hotel cut-off dates. The hospitality industry has become largely diluted with hotels venturing into home sharing and Airbnb offering up alternative services for event accommodation. Marriott is currently testing the waters with home sharing in London and in the long run, other hotels could change their offers to accommodate for such requests as well. It is certainly exciting to see what these well-known industry leaders are bringing to the market.
At this stage, it is not clear whether such new offerings will assist event attendees or add confusion to citywide events. In smaller cities, where accommodation is sparse, Airbnb Events could act as additional support to the main room block. However, bear in mind that standard Airbnb offerings are not regulated lodgings and the event planner will have to deal with the backlash from unhappy guests with little (if any) accountability taken from the responsible parties. Let’s not even venture into the insurance policies…! It is also common practice for Airbnb hosts to hike up their accommodation prices when events are taking place in their cities. There is no opportunity to negotiate cheaper rates or the resources to manage varying cancellation policies.
Simply summed up: Airbnb for Events isn’t a feasible replacement to your main room block, a centralized service that takes care of rate negotiation, simple cancellation policies, group housing needs and group benefits. You may consider AirBnB however for past cut-off accommodation options, should you wish to venture into the home sharing world. Otherwise, there still are partners such as aRes for passed cut-off inventory management.
Make sure your event attendees stay in your official room block, after all, you have worked hard to contract with hotels and deserve to reap the benefits.
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Event management is complex!