Airbnb Jumps Into The Competitive Travel Booking World

After contentions with the hotel industry last year, Airbnb is now locking horns with online travel booking sites like Booking.com and Expedia, reports CNET.

Airbnb posted an open letter with the intention of attracting bed-and-breakfasts and boutique hotels away from the online travel booking sites, saying their fees are too high for what they deliver. The company also released a survey it commissioned that indicated small hotel owners are not pleased with these sites.

“Proprietors of these boutique hotels largely believe that the fees charged by third-party booking sites like Booking.com, Hotels.com and Expedia are too high,” reads the survey, which was done by research firm David Binder Research. “In addition, most are not aware that they are typically charged higher fees than big hotels on these platforms.”

Airbnb has grown from a Silicon Valley startup that allowed couch surfers to give up spare beds for rent to become a full online travel booking site in its own right. It now mostly lists personal homes instead of hotel rooms. Airbnb now has roughly 4.5 million homes for rent in 81,000 cities. Travelers can also book trips and restaurants using the site, not to mention B&Bs, boutique hotels, and vacation rentals.

With growth has come greater scrutiny from city regulators for Airbnb. In New York, San Francisco, and London, the company has contended with local governments. It has struck deals with many regulators, downscaled its services, collected hotel taxes and made adjustments to rules that require that hosts register with their cities.

This has meant Airbnb has had to reimagine its business to stay in the game. The company let loose with major offensive maneuvers against hotel chains after it was revealed that American Hotel and Lodging Association led significant opposition research against Airbnb.  Now it’s aiming at the travel agent market.

Companies like these are big players in the travel industry. Booking.com, a Netherlands-based organization, lists over 1.7 million properties in almost every country, not to mention air and train tickets, car rentals and more. Expedia, based in the US, offers nearly  600,000 properties, 550 airline choices, car rentals, and tickets to cruises. Airbnb hopes to change the fact that most hotels are booked through these sites by luring people away using lower fees. It gets a 9 to 15 percent cut per booking.

“Time and again, small business owners told us that the fees charged by travel agents like Expedia and Booking.com — which can be as high as 30 percent — are too high,” Airbnb wrote in its open letter. “Airbnb offers lower fees.”

The company has not been reserved about its intentions.  “Our competition is two companies — Expedia and Booking.com,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told travel news site Phocuswire last month. “Make no mistake: We are going to run this company for decades, but in a certain way.”