Airbnb Explores Shift from Marketplace to Travel Platform through API Strategy

An API may be in Airbnb's future. This week, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky, told Adweek that he envisions the company moving from a marketplace towards a platform. With over 60 million users across the globe, Airbnb is ripe for data partnerships and expanding its services beyond simply booking a room. An API seems central to such progression, and when Chesky was specifically asked whether the company would publish an API, Chesky confirmed: "I think so." Chesky continued
 
"We don't have an API that companies can plug into....What companies plug in probably remains to be seen. But we've been pretty open that we see ourselves moving beyond just the home, toward an end-to-end-trip [platform], so you can probably connect the dots on where that leads us."
 
When considering use cases for an Airbnb API, some obvious integrations immediately come to mind. Airlines, rental cars, and other travel-centric service providers arise as Airbnb integration candidates. Additionally, 60 million users continuously generate data that Airbnb can capitalize on through partnerships. However, Chesky is keenly aware that Airbnb's rapid rise to popularity is largely due to its satisfied user community. If users feel betrayed in the realm of digital privacy, Airbnb risks damaging its core value.
 
While Airbnb has been transparent with its intentions to grow beyond a room marketplace, it must be careful with its API offering and strategic with partnerships. Accordingly, don't expect Airbnb to blindly mimic the open travel APIs that currently power services like Expedia and Kayak. Expect an API that builds on its existing user value proposition and positions Airbnb as a travel platform.    

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