Home rental company Airbnb has signed a nine-year partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the San Francisco-based company announced in London this morning.
The sponsorship deal will see Airbnb hosts “support and participate in the Olympic Movement” by providing accommodation to spectators, athletes and Games staff.
The deal currently covers Tokyo 2020, Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028, as well as the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022 and Milan in 2026.
The Financial Times reports the deal is worth around $500 million, which includes a large payment to the IOC but accounts for the cost of services that Airbnb will provide. In return, Airbnb hopes to sign up hundreds of thousands of new hosts and potential customers.
While thousands of people already use Airbnb during sporting events, this is the first time it will be an official event partner (it has previously been a domestic sponsor). Details were not fully revealed, but it will likely see website link-ups, for example prompts to book an Airbnb when booking Games tickets, and a push to get more Tokyo-based hosts to sign up.
The IOC said it will provide $28 million worth of Airbnb accommodation to athletes for competition and training-related travel, though an Olympic Village for athletes will still be set up in each city.
In addition, an ‘Olympian Experiences’ Airbnb category will launch as a way for athletes to earn money. Launching early 2020, it will allow people to sign up for “experiences” such as training with athletes or being shown around their home city.
At a press conference attended by Business Traveller, IOC President Thomas Bach said partnering with Airbnb would tie into the committee’s sustainability goals, minimising the need for new accommodation to be built.
“We are bringing the Olympic Games into the digital age. The goal is to make it more feasible and more sustainable,” Bach said.
It will also reduce the cost of the amount of accommodation the IOC and host city are required to provide.
Asked about concerns that guests may not be able to rely on Airbnb hosts, the company’s co-founder Joe Gebbia said they would “verify” all hosts in advance of the Games, though it is not clear whether this will mean in-person checks.
In response to guests falling victim to scams on the platform, the company has said that by December 2020, every listing will be “verified”, and any guest whose accommodation does not meet “accuracy standards” will be fully refunded.
Previously customers had to rely on website reviews from other users.
It is also launching a phone line so dissatisfied customers can speak to a real person at any time of day.
Airbnb has been targeting business travellers, introducing custom search fields and results and a “work trip toggle” as part of its Airbnb for Work service.
It is preparing for a potential initial public offering in 2020.