Behind Airbnb’s purchase of HotelTonight and push into hotels
It’s all coming true. Rumors about an Airbnb IPO have been swirling for years—today, the travel giant confirmed its plans to go public next year. The company was also expected to push further into hotels with its acquisition earlier this year of startup HotelTonight. Sam Shank, co-founder of HotelTonight, now heads up Airbnb’s hotel division, and spoke about the push on Thursday at a New York City-based conference hosted by travel industry publication Skift. Shank noted that his team is building out the hotel category on Airbnb for the San Francisco-based company, which purchased HotelTonight, an app that popularized the last-minute booking trend, in March.
While Airbnb was built for homes, it began venturing further into hotels by adding boutique listings more than two years ago. “We’re very excited about the progress,” Shank said Thursday, as he promised “more to come.” He noted the challenge of being “supplier friendly” and of delivering incremental revenue for the hotels that use the Airbnb platform.
The travel landscape has been tangled with overlap in recent years—Airbnb has been pushing its hotel listings, as hotel brands themselves get into the sharing space. After piloting a program in Europe, Marriott announced plans to bring its home-rentals division to the U.S. in April. At the same time, larger hotel chains—the kind that already list on HotelTonight—are trying to encourage more direct booking by travelers, as Google ramps up its own travel offerings. And online travel agencies such as TripAdvisor are trying to improve their own strategies to compete with Google.
Shank said Airbnb will “leverage the strengths of Airbnb in terms of design and storytelling” for hotels on its platform. “We want to reflect that for hotels who want to tell their own stories about how they work with communities and the local connections they’re making with their communities, as well as what makes them different and special,” he added. He noted that chains are not a focus for Airbnb currently but “never say never.”
As Shank leads the Airbnb hotels push, he is also continuing to grow HotelTonight. The nine-year-old brand recently began running new ads to support its Daily Drop offering where users can unlock special deals each day. In one spot, two men are discussing the offering and one is so impressed he appears to inadvertently douse his coffee with mustard before taking a sip.
According to Skift Executive Editor Dennis Schaal, HotelTonight has spent $100,000 on the DailyDrop campaign since Aug. 1. Shank says the brand has spent “a lot more” than that. According to a HotelTonight spokesman, the campaign was created by HotelTonight’s in-house creative team and San Francisco-based agency Mekanism.