After years in the spotlight, the past few months have seen some interesting, and telling, developments in Airbnb’s approach to short-term rentals. To name just a few that we at Rented.com have covered:
A public and explicit focus on professional managers via its “Find A Superhost” product, and more recently at the VRMA National Conference in Orlando with the launch of new professional management tools.
The launch of Airbnb Select where Airbnb partners with top hosts to not only invest in them as hosts in order to upskill them, but also invests in the physical properties alongside the hosts.
Going so far as to build its own apartment building to ensure there will be supply on the Airbnb marketplace, and that the supply will be of the sort that Airbnb approves.
All of this increased focus and attention on the more professional side of the business has been interesting, but the latest news from Bloomberg may be the biggest, and most surprising yet. According to the business news outlet, Airbnb is about to put its money where its mouth is in terms of its belief in professional management being the future of the sharing economy, and will do so in a BIG way.
News on the street is that Airbnb is interested in buying Wyndham’s European Vacation Rental business. The purchase, rumored to cost more than $1 Billion, would be the clearest signal yet of Airbnb’s evolution from a mom and pop peer-to-peer online platform that grew out of three guys renting airbeds in their overpriced San Francisco apartment, to a truly integrated, professional, and global hospitality company.
On its face the move would seem to contradict the company’s ethos, but at this stage of the company’s lifecycle, as investors are looking to not only justify Airbnb’s $30 Billion valuation, but also to capitalize on it, the move makes a lot of sense. How better to explain the valuation, and perhaps even increase it, than to move from pure online distribution of inventory to more fully owning the entire accommodation experience through professional management?
And as big as this move may be, there are indications that it could just be the start of something even bigger. The launch of Trips last year, and the perpetually rumored move into Flights, signals that Airbnb’s ambition far exceeds accommodation alone. Airbnb doesn’t just want a cut of where you sleep. They want to own your entire travel experience. And if they succeed in doing that, just like Amazon with e-commerce, will we eventually look back at the $30 Billion valuation and determine the company was a steal at that price?
Needless to say, the next few months will be interesting, especially for Wyndham shareholders - shares jumped 1.5% on the Airbnb news.
All of this raises yet another question: If Wyndham is so keen to get out of the vacation rental business in Europe, will it want to keep its vacation rental arm in the US? And if not, will Airbnb, and perhaps a newly enriched Vacasa, have an interest in the largest professional vacation rental management company in the United States? Only time will tell, but for those of us in the vacation rental industry, we are certainly living in interesting times.