Airbnb officially opens up platform to hotel distribution

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Airbnb is to allow hotels and other accommodation providers to list on the site for the first time through an official third party distribution network.

SiteMinder will be the first platform to act as a channel manager on a global scale so that its portfolio of properties can be featured alongside existing properties from Airbnb hosts.

The deal is not exclusive, with SiteMinder the first of a number of distribution platforms expected to be given connection rights to Airbnb over time.

The connection will be available from March 2018 but SiteMinder has been working with a select number of hotels in different markets around the world to test the service.

Hotels and B&Bs have listed on Airbnb in the past but have done so independently and not through a large third party distribution service.

Greece-based WebHotelier says it has also had such a program in place since the summer of 2017.

In a signal Airbnb has the online travel agencies in its sights, the company says it will charge a service fee for hotels and accommodation providers in the region of 3% to 5% - much lower, it claims, than that of OTAs which can charge as much as 30%. Airbnb will also not require hosts to sign contracts, and it will manage all payments and transactions.

First steps

SiteMinder has more than 28,000 hotels connected to its channel manager platform and says it anticipates "quite significant interest" in the opportunity to list on Airbnb from within its customer base.

Managing director Mike Ford says: "We're excited. The Airbnb story is quite phenomenal and to be a part of that, to have been selected as their first global hotel technology partner, to be able to work together with the Airbnb team on their first real-time connection so they can better support hotel businesses the world over, that's exciting."

Airbnb says it will retain a level of quality control over the properties coming down the distribution pipe from SiteMinder - meaning they will have to meet certain criteria such as unique design characteristics, inclusion of local influences, access to common gathering spaces and high-quality photography on their content pages.

The company also wants to includes properties that offer local tours, use local produce and beverages.

Airbnb is expected to allow chain hotels to participate in the program but is pushing the "unique experience" angle from those it wants to list on the site.

But, in short, any accommodation type is welcome, from boutique hotels, lodges, timeshares and hostels to ryokans in Japan, pensions in Korea and so-called "heritage hotels" in India. 

Bigger picture

The expansion of the Airbnb service to allow third party distribution is the first significant change to the core product in a number of years.

Much attention has been placed on the strategy and growth of its Experiences product (allowing hosts and others to provide tours and activities to guests), plus the long-rumoured launch of a product or partnership to allow some form of flight search.

The last significant change to the original service came in 2015 when it started targeting business travelers with properties catering specifically for road warriors.

This development later saw the signing of a number of deals with business travel property management providers such as BridgeStreet.

When it comes to external distribution, Airbnb switched off its affiliate program for most third party sites in late-2015 but came back to the fold a year later when it signed an agreement with Travel.jp in Japan to list its properties on the metasearch sites.

Other travel accommodation search engines are still mostly out in the cold and do not have an official plug-in to content listed on the Airbnb site.

Cameron Houser, Airbnb’s Program Manager for Hotels, says: "Small hotels and B&Bs have long used Airbnb and now we’re building new tools and partnerships to help these local businesses thrive.

"We are dedicated to working with small hospitality businesses that excel at offering the best guest experiences and living our mission of belonging and we couldn’t ask for a better partner than SiteMinder."

Daniel Diosi