Why business travelers should think twice about booking through Airbnb

Willing to bet on this place having reliable Wi-Fi?
Willing to bet on this place having reliable Wi-Fi?
Image: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
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It’s not surprising that Airbnb, the peer-to-peer room rental service, has decided to court business travelers by pairing up with the travel expense manager Concur. Global business travel spending is shooting through the roof, and working with the deep-pocketed business travel world beats dealing with the squatters and scammers that crop up among Airbnb’s leisure-heavy clientele.

Linking up with Concur may lessen the friction, for businesses, of booking and expensing a room with Airbnb, but it won’t necessarily turn Airbnb into a seamless, business-facing company. Harried and demanding business travelers should beware of the following:

The discounts aren’t as great outside the most expensive US cities

Airbnb bookings aren’t always the bargain they appear to be. That’s partly because business travelers are more likely to need an entire apartment for work privacy, not just someone’s spare room. A US city-by-city study by the web data company Priceonomics found that while renting a private room on Airbnb is about half as expensive on average than staying in a hotel, renting an entire apartment is less of a bargain, with a cost savings of just over 20%.

And Airbnb is not always cheaper in smaller cities, where apartment inventory and living costs are lower. Big companies also have the bargaining power to negotiate deep discounts on hotel rooms for employees—up to 40% off the rack rate, according to hotel managers—which, if you work for a big firm, makes the hassles of booking through Airbnb less appealing.

Successful business trips are worth spending the money

Getting travel deals is often necessary for leisure travelers, and minimizing travel expenses is a priority for businesses too. But if you’re skimping on your lodging to justify a business trip, it begs the question of whether the travel is worth it, in these days of video-conferencing and lightning-fast communications. Business trips can contribute amply to a company’s growth and seal deals that wouldn’t go through on the phone or virtually—but only if the in-person visit pays off.

If your Wi-Fi cuts out, using Airbnb probably wasn’t worth it

Business travelers may be willing to forego a lot of niceties to save money for their company, but an internet connection isn’t optional for most. In a recent survey by, 56% of business travelers said that a Wi-Fi connection was the most needed amenity when booking a hotel room, versus 34% of leisure travelers. That makes sense: losing your internet during a rushed business trip can be a disaster.

People renting out rooms or apartments don’t have the collective bargaining power to do battle with internet service providers during an outage, nor the needed sense of urgency (especially if they’re away on vacation themselves). They also don’t typically have a business center with Wi-Fi to offer for a quick fix.

I’m a frequent Airbnb user for leisure travel, and can attest that a bad or nonexistent internet connection is a regular feature of the Airbnb travel experience, even when the service is promised by the renter. Internet troubles haven’t mattered much when I’ve traveled for leisure, but when I’ve had Airbnb internet troubles while traveling for business, the panic was enough to turn me off using the service for business altogether.