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Spurred by Sports, Airbnb Could be Fourth-Largest Travel Intermediary

24 Aug, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Looks like the Roaming Gnome has some serious competition – from someone who lacks a cute mascot.

According to an article in Travel Weekly, Airbnb will likely become the world’s fourth-largest online-travel intermediary by the end of the year, as the peer-to-peer accommodations service continues to boost demand from its core leisure sector and more nascent business contingent, according to research firm Phocuswright.

But don’t go looking for the company to trumpet its numbers. Airbnb likely generated about $7.5 billion in gross bookings in 2015, Phocuswright said. And after this year, Phocuswright expects that Airbnb will trail only Expedia Inc., Priceline Group and China-based Ctrip in annual gross bookings among online travel intermediaries.

Expedia and Priceline generated $61 billion and $56 billion, respectively, in gross bookings last year, according to company filings.

Airbnb, however, isn’t just promoting itself online to leisure travelers. It has become a force to be reckoned with, including in the sports travel market, sponsoring the Brooklyn Half Marathon (now known as the Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon.) And when lodging fell short, the platform provided rooming services to (gulp!) the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. It also unlocked rooms in Rio to those who wanted to see the summer Olympics.

So, in short, expect all that growth to continue. Almost one in three U.S. travelers stayed at a home-based unit last year, up from about one in 10 in 2011, Phocuswright said. And considering a huge proportion of today’s travelers wants to make their arrangements online, it’s a perfect scenario.

According to Travel Weekly, “Airbnb this summer filed documentation indicating that it was raising $850 million in a funding round that would value the 9-year-old company at about $30 billion, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month. Airbnb has declined to comment on valuations and funding efforts. Priceline’s market value is about $69 billion, while Expedia’s is about $17 billion.

Airbnb earlier this year also reportedly received a $1 billion credit line from a group of lenders that included Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley. Some analysts have said the debt indicates that the company may be preparing to go public.”

Wow. If that happens, Airbnb will kick the door down and the impact will be felt around the world.

We haven’t seen an Airbnb Stadium yet, nor an Airbnb Arena. But, say pundits, give it time.

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