Airbnb to welcome third-party hotel distribution

Photo credit: Getty Images/CreativeNature_n (SiteMinder, a cloud-based distribution platform used to attract guests, will be Airbnb’s first partner in this new endeavor.)

It's becoming harder every day to differentiate between Airbnb and traditional online travel agencies, and a new agreement that allows third-party distribution services to list hotel rooms on its site is blurring that line even more. SiteMinder, a cloud-based distribution platform used to attract guests, will be Airbnb’s first partner in this new endeavor, and will act as a channel manager to ensure its properties will be included alongside Airbnb hosts.

The service with SiteMinder will go live in March, but the company has been testing the offering in select markets ahead of the launch. SiteMinder’s distribution platform consists of more than 28,000 hotels.

Hotels, particularly boutique properties and bed-and-breakfasts, have listed rooms on Airbnb for some time now, but these were all independent efforts. With this new partnership, Airbnb is showing an ambition to handle more hotel inventory. The company also revealed that it will be charging a service fee in the range of 3 percent to 5 percent per booking, a number dwarfed by OTA fees that charge up to 30 percent.

Additionally, Airbnb said the partnership will not require hosts to sign contracts, and it will manage all transactions made using its site. There are some limitations, however, and Airbnb said properties listed on its site will have to meet certain criteria, such as unique design, connection to the local area and high-quality photography of the property for use online. The company is not excluding chain and branded hotels from inclusion, but its qualifications show an interest in “experiential” properties first and foremost.

"Small hotels and B&Bs have long used Airbnb and now we're building new tools and partnerships to help these local businesses thrive," Cameron Houser, Airbnb's program manager for hotels, said in a statement. "We are dedicated to working with small hospitality businesses that excel at offering the best guest experiences and living our mission of belonging and we couldn't ask for a better partner than SiteMinder. SiteMinder is the industry leader and we look forward to continuing to work together to support boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfasts around the world.”