Hotels & Lodging

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Who You Gonna Call in Rio? Airbnb, Apparently

24 Feb, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Housing Shortage Means Olympics Will Lean Heavily on the Sharing Economy

Rio, which has found itself to be short on accommodations for the summer Olympics, is asking Airbnb (henceforth to be known as The Little Search Engine That Could) to locate extra rooms.

According to an article in Inside The Games, the Rio 2016 organizing committee has urged the use of "non-traditional" forms of accommodation during the Olympics and Paralympics, such as rented apartments, through their partnership with Airbnb.

And how’s this for marketing: the Silicon Valley-based company has been named Rio 2016’s Official Alternative Accommodation Services Supplier. (Let this sink in for a moment: Airbnb was formed only three summer Olympic cycles ago.) And according to Travolution, Airbnb began operations in Brazil as recently as  2012 with 3,500 listings, a figure which has grown to more than 45,000 across the country.

It’s not the first time Airbnb has given Rio a room bailout, so to speak; an article in Successful Meetings noted that in 2014, the platform provided rooming services to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Over its one-month course, the World Cup brought more than 3,429,873 people to the country - much more than the number of hotel rooms available.

"FIFA called us and told us their hotel supply was constrained," said Michael Brous, senior business development lead for Airbnb in an article published in SDM. "We unlocked increased supply in a matter of weeks, and 20 percent of attendees stayed in an Airbnb; 120,000 people stayed in more than 18,000 Airbnb homes in Rio de Janeiro alone. This generated $40 million for local residents."

But it’s not just spectators for whom Rio officials are worried about finding room at the inn. There is also a shortage of rooms for other members of delegations, including other administrative officials as well as members of coaching and support teams.

Cost is a huge factor, as well as locations. Rio 2016 officials made an agreement in 2015 with Airbnb, which now is offering as many as 20,000 "affordable" accommodation options, predominantly aimed at fans attending the Games.  

They will supplement the 40,000 rooms made available for Games clients, with Rio having boasted only half that many hotel rooms when the city was awarded the Games over Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo in 2009.

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