Airbnb‘s founder and CEO Brian Chesky has told the advertising industry’s mega-event in Cannes that the business is “financially secure” and that an API is a possibility.
The official Cannes Lions 2016 official daily refers to his keynote speech yesterday, in which he said:
“Getting a company like Airbnb off the ground was incredibly tough. So much so that at one point we were so dangerously low on funding that we started selling breakfast cereals. The truth is that it took ten years to make the business genuinely financially secure.”
Elsewhere, he was also featured in a short interview by Cannes Lions TV.
There are some interesting operational asides in other interviews. Talking to AdWeek he responds to some direct questions about an Airbnb API, albeit in a media-trained non-committal way.
When asked if an API was part of Airbnb’s future, he replies “I think so.”
In order to realise the move from being an accommodation marketplace to an end-to-end trip platform, “partnerships” with other travel suppliers such as airlines need to be in place he said, (although Chesky caveated this by saying there is nothing tangible to announce).
The recent launch of City Hosts – private tours for Airbnb guests – and its ongoing attempts to formalise its relationship with the tours and activities sector, are a sign that the business is evolving beyond accommodation. Recent upgrades to its business travel product shows that it is not only interested in leisure travel.
An API which allows airlines to create “flight + Airbnb” packages, or which allows OTAs to integrate it into their overall accommodation platform, or which allows nifty startups and travel tech behemoths alike to get creative, would take the disruptive elements of Airbnb to a whole new level.
Elsewhere, UK specialist title The Drum is leading with comments from the keynote around the idea of Airbnb becoming somewhere “agencies [should] treat as a brand-building channel.”
This sounds familiar to those who remember the conversations ten years ago about how the OTAs could, as analyst Henry Harteveldt said at the time, “monetize the eyeballs.” His idea was that there was so much traffic and data coming to the OTAs they needed to find a way to generate revenues from non-transactional visits.
The Drum reports that Chesky wants “agencies to treat [Airbnb] as a brand-building channel” but not as somewhere to dump banner ads, he wants the creatives to be creative.
He mentioned in the keynote a campaign from agency Leo Burnett for The Art Institute of Chicago, in which the museum mocked up a copy of the room featured in Van Gogh’s The Bedroom masterpiece. The room could then be booked via Airbnb.
The campaign resulted in a triple figure leap in visits to the institute, he claimed.
Airbnb working with attractions in this way probably makes more sense than working with generic consumer brands, although the potential audience is pretty vast – Chesky said that 1.3 million people stay in an Airbnb property every night.
The branding platform, if targetted at destinations, could be a rival to businesses such as Expedia Media Solutions, but the prospect of an API is more significant. If and when it happens, the narrative around Airbnb as a threat to hotels could be pivoted as it becoming a threat to online travel as we know it.
Airbnb not impacting online travel agency growth (June 2016)
Airbnb goes after vacation rental owners with technology push (April 2016)
Thomas Cook India links up with Airbnb for international packages (Feb 2016)
What the sharing economy’s success means for your travel business ($25).
Click here for details.