When large events – such as SXSW or ITB – come to town, planners and delegates often struggle with overbooked hotel rooms. Airbnb’s new events platform aims to help organisers find accommodation for attendees near their event venue.
Airbnb for Events provides planners an interactive map of listings that are near their venues, and allows them to embed the map directly on their event website. Alternatively, organisers can opt for Airbnb to create a personalised landing page for their event on Airbnb.com that they can then share with attendees and use to market their event.
An example of a large event utilising the tool is Adelaide Fringe, Australia’s biggest annual arts festival which pulled in 2.5 million attendees across 31 days.
Adelaide Fringe director and CEO Heather Croall said the Airbnb for Events tool allowed visitors to locate accommodation near CBD Fringe events and calculate how long it would take to walk or drive between the two.
“Adelaide Fringe attracts tens of thousands of visitors to South Australia each year, so it’s really important that they’re able to easily find somewhere to stay that won’t be too far from the action,” she said.
“Following the success of this pilot project, we’re excited to see how it could be expanded to include the hundreds of suburban and regional events held as part of our festival each year.”
But not all organisers are ecstatic about the launch. Joewin Tan, managing director at Linear Dots Production, is more reserved about the platform because of a lack of quality control for clients.
“We usually recommend hotels that are reliable and deliver good service standards. I am concerned about not being able to ‘control’ the service standards that my client’s guests receive during their stay in an Airbnb apartment," she said.
Another concern she brings up is the “hospitality chaos” that would ensue if attendee touch points are scattered across the city.
“Part of our service, even if we house guests at a hotel away from the conference venue, is that our hospitality team plans their route to ensure that every touch point is carefully thought through,” she said. “Imagine having 500 guests all staying in different parts of a city. That is the ultimate nightmare of an event organiser.”
On top of that, Airbnb is not yet legal in big markets like Singapore and Japan, thereon adding to clients being uneasy. “I am not sure that the cost savings that come with this is worth the hassle and risk,” Tan said.
Despite the quick growth of the sharing economy model, home- and meeting-sharing options are undergoing a slow uptake in the events world. Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s (CWT) 2017 Meetings & Events Forecast spelt out that sharing economy providers [such as Airbnb] boast up to 40% savings while critics suggest foot-for-foot equal pricing.
“Unlike hotels, however, many sharing economy spaces do not offer attendee accommodations onsite — often a deal breaker,” the report said. “In addition, duty of care poses another challenge for unique meeting spaces as meeting owners need to ensure regulatory and insurance requirements are met.”
Although a small step in Airbnb’s foray into meetings, what the platform lacks so far is the ability for planners to book accommodation venues for meetings and events.
This was raised in Skift’s analysis of the tool: “It’s surprising that Airbnb hasn’t worked more strongly to leverage its global supply of accommodations as an alternative to traditional meeting spaces at hotels or convention centres. Why not use a nice house or swanky apartment for your company off-site instead of a boring beige hotel meeting room?”
In the business events front, there’s plenty an influential platform like Airbnb can offer such as linking Airbnb Experiences with incentive programs, affiliating Airbnb for Business with meeting spaces, bulk bookings, and allowing planners to customise bookings.
However, in the pipeline for the company is collaboration with other service providers to provide additional information on the interactive maps including event registration and ticketing, event management, weddings, and trip planners.