How many of you know that Airbnb was originally launched to serve the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences & exhibitions) market?
Indeed, the home sharing platform got its start in 2007 when Brian Chesky (Airbnb's co-founder and CEO) and his roommate, Joe Gebbia (co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Airbnb), both unemployed graduates of RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), decided to rent some space in their three-bedroom San Francisco apartment during a design conference, the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design/Industrial Designers Society of America (ICSID/IDSA) World Congress, a biannual event that drew thousands of designers to the city.
The pair, who had almost run out of money to pay the rent, knew that lodging capacity would be squeezed, boosting hotel rates.
Thus, they decided to put some air mattresses on the floor and created a rudimentary website. They had expected their first customers to be hippie types, but in fact they were mature professionals all attending the conference.
South by Southwest & the Democratic convention
The MICE theme continued with a new website marketing the group's offerings as Airbedandbreakfast.com for the 2008 edition of South by Southwest, a conglomerate of conference & festivals celebrating the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries, held annually in Austin, Texas.
AirBed and breakfast was billed as 'lodging for sold-out conferences', with the tagline, "Finally an alternative to expensive hotels".
The next event to be tackled was the Democratic Party national convention in August 2008, where they encountered a fundamental problem.
No one wanted to list their homes on the site.
Finally the issue was solved through blogging and getting noticed in the mainstream media like Politico, the Daily News and the New York Times. This approach worked and soon 800 people had listed their accommodation and there were 80 bookings for the convention.
Airbnb launches new MICE tool
Now in late April 2018, after having branched out from the MICE market over the past decade, Airbnb has returned to its roots with the launching of an events tool that offers its inventory to event and meeting organisers.
Accommodation is always an important consideration for events, especially large conventions, major rock concerts and trade shows.
Being able to broaden the capacity and choice of lodging for an event is obviously an attractive proposition for the organisers.
Typically attendees are offered a discount on rooms nearby or in the venue, if it’s a conference hotel.
For some types of events, hotel space is either not sufficient or is not what some attendees are looking for. Even given the growing popularity of the sharing economy, it’s not always easy for event organisers to make this type of lodging readily available to attendees.
In order to make it easier for events to offer Airbnb accommodation directly to attendees, the company has launched a new tool for organisers, called 'Airbnb for Events', which allows them to make an interactive map of available listings near the event's venue and embed it directly on the event's website in just minutes.
This also allows event organisers to curate the types of listings that are presented to their event attendees.
They can also create personalised landing pages, which are handy for events that might not have much accommodation information on the website. Airbnb is also using the technology at the core of Airbnb for Events for other purposes, like ticketing services, city guides, and more.
Good for the local image
While, this latest addition to Airbnb's arsenal will, of course, earn extra revenue for the home-sharing giant, the group has a further strategic reason for launching this particular feature at the present time.
With city, regional and national governments around the world increasingly restricting and even curtailing Airbnb rentals, the company is trying to blazon its credentials as a good local citizen.
Offering services that can help cities temporarily accommodate more tourists can be mutually beneficial, especially when they get overrun during big events.
Indeed, instead of expanding conventional hospitality capacity for major events like the Olympics, which tends to be underutilised in the aftermath, it makes more sense to rely upon the very flexible lodging stock offered on platforms like Airbnb.
Airbnb partners with event and travel guide platforms
Airbnb has also created partnerships so that accommodation listings will be shown on sites like: Insider.in, an Indian platform that proposes a handpicked selection of events and products; Inspirock, which provides a detailed day-by-day plan of attractions at various destinations; Picatic, which sells event registration software; RSVPify, which offers the possibility of creating digital RSVP's for weddings: Taquilla, a Spanish online platform selling tickets to sporting events, concerts, museums, attraction parks, etc.; and WeddingWire.
So, for example, if young people are invited to a wedding, they can see affordable places to stay on WeddingWire; meanwhile, if travellers discover a landmark somewhere to visit on Inspirock, they'll be able to view nearby apartments and homes that can be rented.