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Ultimate guide to Airbnb for business travelers

FEBRUARY 5, 2020 BY MEGHAN HUNTER

Many travelers book with Airbnb to save on lodging for personal and leisure trips, but it’s equally convenient to use Airbnb for Work. It encourages stronger company culture through team building, local experiences and increased collaboration when traveling — all while saving about 50% on expenses. 

These days, some 700,000 businesses use Airbnb for Work to book spaces. In this guide, we’ll show you how find them, how the program works and why it might be a fit for your company’s travel style.

And although Airbnb doesn’t have a loyalty program, you can earn miles, points or cash back by paying with the best small business credit cards.

Let’s take a look.

Airbnb for Work can be a great way to bring your team together and save money at the same time. (Photo by Airbnb)

Overview:  What’s Airbnb for Work?

Airbnb for Work is a dashboard designed for small business travel. It’s a simple but powerful interface that addresses difficulties in booking traditional lodging for teams.

When you sign up as a business, you’ll have access to travel reports, invoices and expense reports. You can even set limits on how much an employee can spend per night — right down to custom limits for specific cities. You can set the maximum at, say, $75 a night in Kansas City and $150 a night in New York or San Francisco.

You’ll save money by not having to pay for multiple rooms as you would with hotels. Instead, you can book a big place with several rooms for one nightly price — which on average is 50% cheaper. Most rentals come with a kitchen, work spaces and a living room, so you’ll also save on eating out and paying for multiple Wi-Fi passes.

Plus, everyone will have their own room for work and sleep and be more available for team meetings, brainstorming sessions and social gatherings.

Many Fortune 500 companies, like Domino’s, Hyundai and PayPal, use Airbnb for Work for team lodging. Airbnb locations are in ~200 countries around the world.

And you can also book a cottage, cabin or castle just to get away for a while.

Advantages of Airbnb for Work

1.  You can save nearly 50% compared to hotels

In addition to making it easier to book team travel, Airbnb for Work can also save a lot of money. Airbnbs for teams are 49% cheaper on average for travel within the U.S. and can save even more on international lodgings.

Companies stand to save big money on team travel with Airbnb for Work.

Which makes sense because booking multiple hotel rooms can get expensive quickly.  If you can book one place with extra bedrooms, you’re only paying one total cost per night.

2.  Airbnb encourages team building and collaboration

The other advantage to Airbnb for Work is the opportunity to have your team in the same place, but with enough privacy so everyone has their own space.

When you can hang out in the living room, instead of a hotel lobby, your team can bond faster with fewer distractions. And having a full kitchen for meal preparation encourages folks to spend more time in shared spaces.

Airbnb Experiences can be a fun way to build team camaraderie.

Plus, you can book Airbnb Experiences to arrange shared activities off-site, like sailing, pastry-making classes, a canoe trip and much more.

3.  Airbnb for Work offers a corporate dashboard for travel management

Airbnb knows business travelers need easy ways to book and pay for their stays, keep track of employee spending and generate invoices. The Airbnb for Work dashboard accomplishes this.

The Corporate Dashboard allows you to easily reserve stays for your team, so there’s no need for your employees to book their own reservation. You’re also able to directly reimburse your employees for their paid stays and pay any outstanding invoices related to the stay.

The Airbnb for Work dashboard is separate from a personal Airbnb account.

We’ll talk about the dashboard more in a moment.

4.  Airbnb for Work is great for long-term projects or employee relocation

Instead of bland corporate housing, Airbnb for Work can provide long-term accommodations for big projects or employee relocation. In fact, you can usually save even more for a longer booking.

Airbnb offers travelers certain amenities that most hotels simply do not. You’ll have an entire house/apartment to yourself and a full kitchen that’s a welcome convenience for folks who don’t want to eat at a restaurant every day.

5.  Airbnb for Work’s standards and host expectations

Airbnb requires hosts to meet certain standards before their listing will appear as work-ready. Hosts have to ensure:

  • Guaranteed constant Wi-Fi
  • Laptop-friendly work spaces
  • Travel essentials like basic toiletries, iron, hair dryer, and hangers
  • Self check-in with a keypad code or lock box
  • Flexible and/or free cancellations

In addition to these requirements, each work-friendly listing must have at least an average 4.8 rating (out of 5) and at least five reviews.

Metrics are updated constantly. If a listing fails to meet expectations or falls below standards, it will no longer appear in business travel searches.

How to use Airbnb for Work

To get started, navigate to the Airbnb for Work website and click “Sign up.” You’ll have to use a work email, or an email separate from your personal Airbnb account.

You’ll get a verification email with a link to click to confirm it’s the correct email address.

Afterward, you can access and set up your dashboard.

Here, you can:

  • Invite employees to book stays through your company’s portal
  • Add a company credit card
  • Generate invoices
  • Track team spending

You can also add employees to groups and designate other admins to approve company travel, if you have a lot of employees.

Add a company credit card or let employees expense their trips later.

You can also opt to receive alerts if a stay exceeds a nightly rate. And you can set limits for any specific city, say, $120 for Chicago or $150 for New York City.

This is a useful feature for giving employees more wiggle room in expensive markets. Or making sure they don’t spend too much in cheaper locations.

Invite your team members to join your company’s dashboard for easier trip planning and tracking.

After you’ve set up your dashboard, you can invite your team members to join. From there, they can start booking their trips any time they log in with their company email address.

Trips will show up automatically in the “Reporting” section of your dashboard. And you can see who booked the trip, where they went, dates of the stay and how much it cost.

The dashboard is laid out simply and easy to use. The advantage of using it is to have everything in one place instead of waiting for each employee to submit expense reports and invoices. Plus, you can add a company credit card so they won’t have to use their own payment methods, which is another way to track spending.

Important considerations

Airbnb for Work is best for business travel involving small groups. If you have 2,000+ employees and want to organize a conference or meeting, you’d definitely want to look elsewhere for that kind of space.

Also, Airbnb isn’t subject to the same safety controls as major hotels, like marked exits, ADA compliance and sprinklers in every room in case of a fire. You’re often staying in a home intended for residential, not commercial, use. Although that provides “homey” space, you might need something with a ramp and an elevator or other special features.

And beware of cancellations. Things can (and do) happen — the heat goes out in winter or a pipe bursts. The landlord can’t move you to another room like in a regular hotel. If there’s a last-monute disaster, it could throw your plans into turmoil, although I’ve personally found Airbnb to be fast and accommodating in the case of emergencies like this.

This can happen in a regular hotel too, of course. For example, when I showed up to a Marriott hotel in Orlando, they told me the water was out on the entire floor — and sent me to another hotel across the street. Or you might arrive at a hotel to find a broken elevator, noisy guests next to your room or loud construction right outside your window (all of these have happened to me).

And hotels undergo frequent renovations. When I arrived at my Hyatt hotel in New Mexico, we had to walk around the entire building to check in because the lobby was closed. So being flexible is important when you travel, not just with Airbnb.

Finally, consider that some communities aren’t welcoming  of Airbnbs and their a constant rotation of new guests. You might experience hostility from neighbors.

If you have any safety concerns, be sure to ask your host. And always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t question it — just walk away.

Again, that applies to every travel experience. Just know what you’re getting into as much as you can before you show up. Safety first, always.

There’s no loyalty program, but you can still save with the best business credit cards

An Airbnb loyalty program is rumored to be in the works, but until it arrives, applying for a small-business credit card allows you to earn valuable welcome bonuses and miles and points on your Airbnb business travel.

Our favorite cards include:

Check out the full list of small-business cards. They’re our ticket to award travel — which includes cheap stays through Airbnb, even for business travel.

Bottom line

Airbnb for Work is an easy way to manage team travel, save money on lodging and bring colleagues closer together for team building and collaboration. On average, it’s 49% cheaper within the U.S. to book an Airbnb instead of a traditional hotel.

The dashboard is simple to use and offers organizational features to keep everything in one central hub. When you book through Airbnb for Work, you can expect to find fast Wi-Fi, self check-in, toiletries and flexible cancellation policies.

Airbnbs are usually reliable, but stay flexible in case your host has to cancel because of an emergency or another sudden issue. And it’s not the best option for huge corporations. The ideal client here is a small business team or a solo traveler.

Until Airbnb creates a loyalty program, you can use the best business credit cards to earn miles, points and valuable welcome bonuses when you travel.

It’s a viable and money-saving alternative to hotels, especially if you usually book several rooms for your team. In fact, some folks prefer it.

Have you used Airbnb for Work during your business travels? Let us know how it’s helped you and your team.

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