Airbnb to acquire HotelTonight, plunging deeper into hotel business

With an IPO on the horizon, the home rental company announces its biggest acquisition to date.

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
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Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky during an event in San Francisco in February 2018.

James Martin

Airbnb -- a company founded on the concept of people renting out their homes -- is moving headlong into the hotel business.

On Thursday, the San Francisco-based company said it signed an agreement to acquire the hotel booking app HotelTonight, a deal that would be Airbnb's biggest yet. Financial details of the deal weren't disclosed.

Airbnb has gone from being a website for couch surfers to having a massive online presence in just under a decade. It lists roughly 6 million homes for rent in more than 80,000 cities worldwide. The company, currently privately held, is valued at $31 billion.

Airbnb is reportedly planning an initial public offering sometime this year. But after years of regulatory battles with cities including New York, New Orleans and Paris, the company needs to show investors it can grow. 

The company has progressively moved into the hotel business over the past couple of years, at first quietly adding boutique hotels to its listings. Last year it announced hotels would be one of four property types it offers on its site. To round itself out as full travel company, it's added additional features such as day trip booking and restaurant reservations. Airbnb has also partnered with major landlords in California and Florida to allow for Airbnb rentals through their buildings. 

"We are reimagining travel by building an end-to-end travel platform that combines where you stay, what you do, and how you get there, all in one place," the company said in a statement Thursday.

HotelTonight is a popular booking app that let's people get last-minute hotel deals. The privately-held company focuses on boutique and independent hotels. It's valued at more than $450 million, according to Bloomberg.

Airbnb said acquiring HotelTonight would make it easier for people to find places to stay at the last minute. It's also seen demand for boutique hotels among its users and is hoping to create more offerings for them. 

Airbnb has acquired or made an investment in a handful of other hospitality companies, including the upscale vacation rental company Luxury Retreats and restaurant reservation startup Resy.