Today we announced that Airbnb is acquiring HotelTonight. HotelTonight is a hotel-booking service that specializes in boutique and independent hotels, and focuses on making last-minute trips easy and fun. We’ve sent out a press announcement, and we want to connect here with you, our hosts, to address some questions we thought you might have.
The core of Airbnb has always been—and will continue to be—our extraordinary hosts who invite guests into their homes. Your personalized hospitality has set a new standard for guests all around the world. Last year, we introduced the idea of ‘Airbnb for Everyone'—the vision of ensuring that anyone in the world can find an amazing place to stay. Since then, we have welcomed more options for guests, including boutique hotels run by people who offer personalized hospitality and are connected to their local communities. The acquisition of HotelTonight helps fulfil this vision.
Why did you acquire HotelTonight?
Traditionally, last-minute trips can be harder for guests to book on Airbnb. Homes are often booked far in advance, and we’ve heard from many of you that it is hard to accept same day bookings from guests because you need time to clean and prepare your space. HotelTonight will help us connect these last-minute travelers with boutique hotels. In addition, HotelTonight has a strong and loyal customer base, and now we have the opportunity to introduce them to Airbnb and home sharing.
Will HotelTonight bring more guests to me?
Yes. Since we’ve started to welcome boutique hotels to Airbnb, we have seen a positive impact on home hosts. HotelTonight will accelerate that positive benefit. Here’s how it works: Boutique hotels help bring new kinds of guests to Airbnb, growing the entire ecosystem. Once these guests come to Airbnb, they’re more open to booking a home. In fact, nearly 90 percent of guests who first used Airbnb to book a hotel room and returned to our platform for a second trip booked in a home. We are delighted to see that the boutique hotels on Airbnb are helping to mainstream home sharing for new guests around the world.
Will all of HotelTonight’s hotels now be bookable on Airbnb?
No. The HotelTonight app and website will continue to operate separately as they do today. Over time, you’ll notice that Airbnb will start bringing a select set of boutique and independent hotels onto the platform, if they meet our high standards for personal hospitality. Also, some guests may be invited to search for accommodations on HotelTonight if they can’t find a place to stay on Airbnb for their trip.
Don’t HotelTonight’s hotels take away from the ‘personalized hospitality’ that Airbnb is all about?
The hotels that we welcome on Airbnb aren’t the big, impersonal spaces you might be imagining. These are boutique and independent hotels, similar to those started by Airbnb advisor Chip Conley, when he founded one of the first boutique hotel companies in the U.S. In fact, Chip has helped us understand that the gap between boutique hoteliers and home hosts is not as far apart as people might think. Boutique hotels are run by people who live in and are connected to their local communities and who want to offer truly personal hospitality. The boutique hotels on Airbnb are typically at a higher price point than our homes, and we hold them to high standards for personal hospitality.
Specifically, boutique hotels on Airbnb need to feel personalized, with qualities such as guest rooms that reflect the local culture. And we expect the hoteliers to provide personal hospitality to guests by offering things like unique recommendations and an owner or manager available on the property full time. A great example is Surfhouse Boutique Motel, an eight-room inn run by Sander, a former home host, and his brother, Nikki, in their hometown of Encinitas, California.
On HotelTonight, you might see some global chain hotels when HotelTonight is filling specific guest demand needs. These hotels do not meet the Airbnb standards for personal hospitality, and we do not plan to add them to Airbnb.
Will you prioritize boutique hotels over homes listings in search? Will more hotels on the site limit my bookings?
No. Our search ranking algorithm is based on providing the best options for a guest, and there won’t be any special benefits for hotels.
In terms of impact on your bookings, it’s totally reasonable to wonder whether having more listings of any type (including boutique hotels) reduces bookings for existing hosts. However, as we mentioned above, having more choices for travelers brings new guests to Airbnb, so the overall pie is growing (and home hosts are benefiting). In addition, when we do bring on boutique hotels, we’re focusing on regions where we need more options for last-minute travelers.
As more boutique hotels come to Airbnb, won’t guests get confused and start expecting hotel-level service from all Airbnb hosts? What are you doing to differentiate home hosts from hotels?
Setting guest expectations is critical. Guests need to be able to find the space that’s right for them, and expectations must be clearly set so that they can be happily met. We know it’s incredibly important that we highlight what’s special about each type of stay.
We plan to further distinguish what makes your home and hospitality unique, and we’ve begun to address this challenge. For example, starting last year each listing now has a category tag that clearly identifies it (e.g. ‘room in boutique hotel’ or ‘entire home’), and we highlight that tag to guests. Previously, hotel rooms were displayed as ‘private rooms,’ which led to guest confusion.
Also, before the end of the year, you’ll see additional changes to your listing page that will further clarify for guests what type of space you have (and associated expectations) and help showcase what makes your hospitality unique. For example, a home host listing might feature that guests can use their book of amazing family recipes while a boutique hotel listing page might highlight that they source food in their restaurant from local farms. We have a few ideas that we’re working on, and will partner with hosts throughout the year to test these ideas out. We will keep you updated here on the Community Center.
So, what’s next?
We’ll be following your feedback and comments here on the Community Center, and will be happy to discuss more at the upcoming Host Q&A in April (alongside an update on several things we’re working on specifically for home hosts).
Airbnb has always been differentiated by the personal connections between hosts and guests. That’s why people love Airbnb, and supporting and celebrating these magical experiences continues to be our top priority, even as we grow and welcome new categories. We’re tremendously committed to your success and to helping you thrive on Airbnb. Thank you!