Airbnb goes to battle against Expedia, Booking.com

Expect to see more hotels on Airbnb, as the company attempts to lure them away from online travel booking sites.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
3 min read

Airbnb rolled out a redesign in February with its new motto -- Airbnb for everyone.

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Airbnb went up against the hotel industry last year, and now it's going after online travel booking sites, like Expedia and Booking.com.

The peer-to-peer home rental company posted an open letter on Tuesday aiming to woo bed-and-breakfasts and boutique hotels away from the online travel booking sites. It said their fees are much higher than what it offers. Airbnb also released a survey it commissioned, in which it says small hotel owners are dissatisfied 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."

Over the past 10 years, Airbnb has gone from a Silicon Valley startup that let couch surfers rent out spare beds to an online travel booking site itself -- the main difference is it mostly lists personal homes, instead of hotel rooms. Airbnb now has roughly 4.5 million homes for rent in more than 81,000 cities. Travelers can also book day trips and restaurant reservations through the site, as well as vacation rentals, B&Bs and boutique hotels.

As Airbnb has grown, it's dealt with increasing scrutiny from city regulators. The company has battled local governments from San Francisco to New York to London. Though it's worked out deals with many of those regulators, it's had to scale down its offerings, collect hotel taxes and adjust to rules that require hosts to register with cities

That means Airbnb has needed to rethink its business to stay competitive. Over the last year, the company launched a major offensive against hotel chains -- after it was revealed the American Hotel and Lodging Association led significant opposition research against Airbnb. And now, it's angling for the online travel agent market.

These companies are power players in the travel world. Netherlands-based Booking.com lists more than 1.7 million properties in almost every country on earth, along with air and train tickets, car rentals and more. And US-based Expedia offers nearly 600,000 properties, 550 airline options, as well as car rentals and cruise tickets. Both companies were founded in 1996.

Most hotels are booked through online travel booking sites and Airbnb appears keen to lure them over to its platform with lower fees. It gets a cut of 9 percent to 15 percent of each booking.

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

The company hasn't been shy in admitting that it's going up against these industry incumbents.

"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."

Expedia and Booking.com didn't return a request for comment.

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