As protestors storm the Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco, American Express and Airbnb this morning announced a “first-of-its-kind tech integration” that makes it easy for U.S. cardholders to quickly sign up for the seven-year-old online housing site.
The partnership lets Amex cardholders book stays at 2 million listings around the globe, and use their Amex loyalty points to book accommodations.
“Whether staying at a bungalow in Bali with Membership Rewards points, or a business trip to London with your Amex Card, this partnership makes booking an Airbnb in over 190 countries seamless and allows Card Members to be verified with their American Express login within the trusted community of Airbnb,” said Airbnb head of global payments and business development Lex Bayer.
As a special promotion, eligible U.S. Card Members will get $50 back when they spend $100 or more on Airbnb through 12/31/2015.
Airbnb’s hometown of San Francisco, meanwhile, votes today on a proposal to limit the number of days homeowners can rent through Airbnb. To mark the occasion, dozens of activists yesterday stormed its headquarters with megaphones and a brass band to protest home-sharing.
Social media video showed protesters shouting, “No more displacement in this city!” and releasing paper houses, carried by balloons, with messages like: “Evictions. Love, AirBnB.” and “Homelessness. Love, AirBnB,” SF Weekly reported.
Despite the meteoric growth of Airbnb, hospitality and travel agency insiders say the online site is not yet a huge threat. A report last week by the Hotel Association of New York estimated hotels lost $450 million in revenue to Airbnb last year.
But Norm Rose, president of Travel Tech Inc. and senior technology analyst at PhoCusWright Inc., sees the site as being more of a threat to tour operators than travel agents.
“I believe Airbnb is morphing into a general travel service using local ‘experts’ to enhance trips based on themes,” he told TMR, “and does encroach upon selling local tours and activities--but not necessarily core travel planning services from travel agents.”
“I know my niche and this is not a big part of it. I guess it’s a competitor, but I have a limited number of clients who’d be interested in working with Airbnb,” said Linda Pagano, owner of Travel Advantage in Mount Laurel, NJ.
Pagano said she is working with a multi-generational family renting a villa in Italy, but losing that home-rental business “is not going to be a deal-breaker. If its 5% of my business, it doesn’t upset me.
“I don’t think the trend is going to be to rent houses. It’s a nice option, but after a week in a house, the cost of going out to dinner begins to add up, and the value isn’t there. The value is in going to a resort or an all-inclusive.”
American Express and Airbnb did not respond to requests for an interview by press time.
Pic: Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine