(This post originally appeared on Philly.com)
Over the past few years my family and I have enjoyed staying at the shared homes offered by Airbnb when we take vacations. And yet, when I travel for my small business I automatically just turn to the chain hotels. But wait – am I missing something? I think I am – and if you own a small business maybe you are too.
Airbnb already has six million listings in more than 100,000 cities. But the company wants more business people to take advantage of their platform. That’s why their division that specifically caters to this demographic – Airbnb for Work – has introduced new search tools that are designed to help corporate road warriors locate somewhere that’s simply a more business-friendly place to stay.
So what do we business travelers want? That’s easy. Flexible (and quick) check-ins. Workspace and collaboration areas. Fast Wi-Fi. Long-stay options. Locations near corporate centers and business services like FedEx and UPS Stores. Most importantly: peace and quiet!
David Holyoke, global head of Airbnb for Work, told me that small businesses make up 40 percent of Airbnb for Work’s 500,000 companies in their professional community around the world. According to him, companies save an average of 49 percent a night when they stay at an Airbnb over a traditional hotel.
“Airbnb for Work offers the kind of flexibility that makes business travel seamless,” he says. “We have comfortable and flexible options for all types and lengths of work trips that include homes, serviced apartments (for travelers staying more than 30 days) and even boutique hotels.”
When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense not only for the sole business traveler but for a group of employees from your company who are travelling together. Some of my clients have rented out homes for small conferences and offsite meetings at a cost significantly less than hotel space.
“Business travelers not only save money but get larger quarters,” Ken Cifuentes, an Airbnb host in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood says. “If you have a group of coworkers who are traveling together then a two-bedroom-plus unit or a house might be a more economical solution than a bunch of hotel rooms.”
Cifuentes offers other tips for those of us who are new to Airbnb for Work. He says that, of course, choosing the right location is important. But he also advises to check how often a host has cancelled in the past and not to be shy about negotiating the price particularly if it’s for a long term stay.
“Make sure to give an accurate count of how many people are staying and – to speed things up – try to look for units where you can book without waiting for the host to respond,” he says. “If you’re booking for someone else, also make sure that the employee has access to the Airbnb host in case there are any questions or problems.” And of course pay close attention to reviews.
“You should always look for someone that has a “Superhost” status,” says Matt and Alicia Tagliaferro who together host an Airbnb site in Northern Liberties. A Superhost is someone who, according to Airbnb, provides a “shining example” for other hosts and because of their experience and reviews has a special badge on their listing and profile to help identify them. The Taligaferros, both experienced Airbnb hosts, say that you can find Superhosts in any price range.
Saving money is, of course, my primary concern as a business owner. But there are other advantages to choosing Airbnb for Work over a typical hotel. One of them is collaboration.
Not only do many homes have larger workspace areas for meetings and spaces to hang out together, but Airbnb offers “experiences” where business travelers can book group outings from food tastings and walking tours to sailing lessons and pastry-making classes with a Michelin chef for the team. According to the company, team building activities like this is one of the most effective ways to build engagement within a company and retain employees.
“Companies spend $402 per employee on activities to boost morale,” says Holyoke, a number that can add up. “But there’s a better way for teams to bond and companies to keep employees happy.”
It’s also a unique perk for your employees. Sure, many corporate chains are an easy option. But for the frequent traveler they can also be somewhat monotonous, if not a little depressing after a while. With an Airbnb, you can mix things up a little bit.
Tiffany M. Ryan, an enrollment director who works from Philadelphia for education search company Noodle.com, told me that she likes to find fun locations and interesting spaces for when she books travel for both herself and company groups because it gives a unique experience that feel like a luxury version of home without paying top dollar. This is the kind of thing that many chain hotels can’t provide.
“You can come in under budget while feeling comfortable and pampered,” she says. “You’re using Airbnb for you and your people to get a break from the norm, so embrace it!”