Airbnb buys HotelTonight to accommodate last-minute travelers

Airbnb is broadening its accommodation business with a plan to acquire last-minute hotel booking service HotelTonight. The cost of the deal hasn’t been disclosed.

The move comes ahead of Airbnb’s IPO later this year, and could help to make the company an even more attractive proposition for investors.

HotelTonight, which helps travelers secure same-day accommodation via its app or website, launched in 2010 and currently offers hotel rooms in more than 1,700 cities in around 35 countries. The business will continue to operate in the usual way following the acquisition, at least for the time being.

Both based in San Francisco, Airbnb announced its intention to buy HotelTonight in a message posted on its website on Thursday, March 7.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO and co-founder, said the move fits with its plan to create an end-to-end travel platform that can serve every guest, “whether they plan their trip a year or a day in advance.” Beyond accommodation, Airbnb’s expanding service also offers carefully selected activities and experiences for travelers, as well as spaces for business meetings and other gatherings.

Commenting on the agreed acquisition, Sam Shank, CEO and co-founder of HotelTonight, said: “We started HotelTonight because we knew people wanted a better way to book an amazing hotel room on-demand, and we are excited to join forces with Airbnb to bring this service to guests around the world.” Shank added that with Airbnb, HotelTonight will be able to give travelers more choice as it helps to connect them with boutique and independent hotels.

Exactly a year ago, Airbnb signaled its growing interest in boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfast establishments when it invited owners of such places to list their properties on its platform. The move by Airbnb was seen as an effort to widen the appeal of its service while at the same time drawing business away from travel booking sites such as Booking.com and Expedia. The results of the company’s strategic maneuver already look promising for those involved, with Airbnb guests booking three times as many nights with boutique hotels in 2018 compared with 2017.

Airbnb launched in 2008 and now offers around six million places to stay and tens of thousands of experiences in more than 80,000 cities around the world.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the company, with parts of the hotel industry complaining of an unfair playing field as hosts generally face fewer regulations to operate their business. Laws are starting to change, but as with other disruptive platforms, the authorities have been slow to respond.

Long-term renters in large cities, too, feel squeezed by rising prices caused by a shrinking pool of rental homes as landlords opt to switch their properties to more lucrative short-term accommodation for services like Airbnb.

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