What’s on the Mind
Airbnb head of business
of Airbnb’s New Head
of Business Travel
• Sales strategy
• Safety & security
• Finding the right use
cases with corporates
travel David Holyoke talks:
In the past two years, Airbnb has launched tools
geared toward travel managers, partnered with
corporate lodging provider BridgeStreet Global,
opened its business platform to third-party bookings and inked deals with the three mega travel
management companies. According to Concur,
corporate travelers’ use of Airbnb has increased.
Now, Airbnb has tapped an executive from within
the corporate travel industry to lead its business
travel department. BTN lodging editor Julie Sickel
spoke with Airbnb head of business travel David
Holyoke, former president of Travel Leaders Corporate, who joined Airbnb in November.
WHAT’S THE NO. 1 ITEM ON YOUR AGENDA?
We have some work to do on the education front. Airbnb
is a part of the managed travel ecosystem. We’re going
to have to address that first through some good old consumer marketing to let the marketplace know. Then, what
we’re doing on the sales front for engagement with travel
managers and business leaderships is to talk about how
we can be working together.
WHAT IS THE COMPANY’S APPROACH TO SALES?
We have a global sales team that continues to expand.
We’ve got feet on the ground in the Asia/Pacific area
and EMEA and then obviously in North America. That
team’s focus is to talk directly with travel managers and
other business stakeholders within organizations about
how we can fit into a managed program. But this is a
two-way conversation. We’ve got a lot of things we’re doing around content marketing and the sales team’s efforts
to talk to business leadership that we are a cost-effective
option, but we’re also asking how we can fit within their
policies and compliance and controls. Then there’s a message to business travelers in general about where the experience side of business travel has gotten a lot tougher.
HOW ARE YOU ADDRESSING LINGERING SAFETY AND
SECURITY CONCERNS AMONG CORPORATES?
We’ve talked with travel managers where there have
been objections or concerns, really giving them insight
into [the broader company’s] trust and safety group, hundreds of individuals whose mission is to ensure the safety
and well-being of both guests and hosts. That’s everything
from data protection, credit card fraud, all the way up
to a rare incident that could occur. We give insight into
that world and the steps that we take for verification processes, the secure messaging that happens between hosts
and guests to get [travel managers] that level of comfort.
WHAT OTHER WAYS ARE YOU ADDRESSING CONCERNS?
We try to drive all of our conversations around Busi-
ness Travel Ready listings because that sets a standard
around amenities and quality. We also talk about our
Superhosts, people who are regular users on that plat-
form who have a high commitment to quality. If folks
want to talk a little bit more about limiting Airbnb use
to certain markets on a pilot or a limited rollout, we
work through those issues, as well, as long as it’s with
the intent of progressing to a fuller rollout.
We recognize that we’re new in the managed travel
space. There are a lot of travel managers and companies trying to understand how the sharing economy fits
into their program, so we’re not trying to come into this
space and say, “Hey, you have to use us for everything.”
The initial conversation is, “Where are some pain points
or some opportunities?” and then how do we move that
forward from a promotion standpoint? And for us, a
promotion can be a very limited, targeted pilot. It can
be driven by a market. It can be driven by certain departments. We make sure there are strong KPIs on both
sides for how we track success. But we’ve certainly
done pilots in markets and will continue to show that
flexibility to the corporate space.
WHAT INDUSTRIES OR COMPANIES DO YOU WORK
WITH MOST OFTEN?
I wouldn’t say there’s one industry that dominates.
Where we see Airbnb working within organizations
is where there are specific use cases. More than three
nights is where we’re probably focusing; five-plus nights
is a heavy percentage. In that regard, it can be project-based work, it can be group work, it can be road warriors who travel to the same city consistently, it can be
related to certain types of travel, whether for relocations,
new hires, interns, groups and meetings.
We’re trying to drive our conversations with companies where we can complement their programs today.
This is not about us versus hotels. Where companies
are getting compliance at a 70 to 80 percent level, I
talked to the team internally here about focusing on
going after that 20 to 30 percent: Where is there leakage? Let’s work with travel managers and procurement individuals to understand why their policies
aren’t working in those particular areas and how our
platform can help them accomplish that. Usually there
are very specific use cases for why that program isn’t
working on that 20 to 30 percent, and we try to dig
deep to understand that. We’re trying to bring that
into the program and provide that visibility.
WHAT ARE YOU FOCUSED ON IN THE MIDTERM?
There are some things we can do on the small to
midsize front to accelerate things; we want to build
further awareness and education. Then with enterprises, we want to dive deeper in terms of what we’re going to build out to address the compliance and control
issues. We’re aligning our strategy and our marketing
efforts around those two standpoints and then working to expand our footprint in main-driver markets
around the world. That’s where we’re putting a lot of
emphasis in the next 12 to 18 months.
“This is not about us versus hotels. ... Let’s work
with travel managers and procurement individuals
to understand why their policies aren’t working in ...
particular areas and how our platform can help them.”