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Home-sharing service Airbnb expands into business travel

By Mike Isaac
New York Times

Traveling for business or pleasure? Airbnb, the home rental startup, wants to be your go-to for both.

On Monday, the company introduced a business travel initiative, expanding Airbnb beyond the vacation and couch-surfing crowds it has traditionally focused on.

Since 2008, Airbnb has hosted a service that allows home and apartment owners to rent out rooms for short periods of time, effectively becoming short-term hostels for travelers.

The new effort adds a section to the company’s website, tailored for business travelers. Airbnb started its push for business travelers by forming partnerships with other technology companies, like the file management company Evernote, the ride-sharing startup Lyft and the cloud computing business Salesforce, which have integrated Airbnb options into their corporate travel booking systems.

In addition, Airbnb plans to offer the service to other businesses as well.

“Nearly 10 percent of Airbnb’s customers travel for business already, and we’ve heard from customers that this type of offering is high on their wish list,” Chip Conley, Airbnb’s head of global hospitality, said in a statement.

Airbnb, which operates in nearly 200 countries, has also teamed up with Concur, the expense account and travel booking management company. Through the partnership, travelers can book Airbnb accommodations via Concur’s smartphone app or website. Expenses for the bookings will automatically appear in Concur’s expense account management software.

The initiative is a large undertaking for the rental-sharing company, squarely taking on giants in the hospitality industry like Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and the Wyndham Hotel Group.

The move into the sector could attract more scrutiny from regulators and government officials, which have grown increasingly interested in whether Airbnb’s rental-sharing customers are breaking the law. In May, the New York state attorney general’s office won a case in which Airbnb was required to hand over anonymous data on a host of its users.

In April, Airbnb closed a $450 million round of venture financing, valuing the startup at $10 billion. The company has raised nearly $750 million to date.

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