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Rooming Together

Airbnb is rapidly growing profile by partnering with leading sports events. Rob Ridley looks at how Rio 2016 created a new category for the accommodation provider to prevent visiting fans from being left on the street.

Tens of thousands of fans should be able to sleep easy at next year’s Olympic Games after a unique accommodation partnership that could see the Rio locals becoming the stars of the show.

Last month, Rio 2016’s chief executive Sidney Levy said that the issue of accommodation had been the organising committee’s biggest headache ahead of its hosting of the Games, stating: “When we started our bid the major problem was accommodation…and we had faith that we would solve the problem one way or another”.

Airbnb reaped good results during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. More than 100,000 travellers who came to the country stayed through its platform

That blind faith appears to have paid off thanks to a landmark partnership with community-driven hospitality company Airbnb. Founded in 2008 and based in San Francisco, the United States online home-rental marketplace – which gives regular people a platform to rent out their accomodation to strangers – will serve as the official alternative accommodation services supplier for Rio 2016. It is a first-of-a-kind agreement in the history of the multi-sport showpiece.

However, aside from the more prosaic advantage of solving a key challenge for major event hosts – accommodating visitors – Rio 2016 and Airbnb are hoping that by joining forces will allow Rio residents to serve as diplomats for their home country, enabling sports fans to become honorary ‘cariocas’, the colloquial term for Rio residents, for the length of their Games stay.

“Airbnb and the Rio 2016 organising committee will ensure that visitors – from all Brazilian states and all over the world – have the opportunity to know the heart and soul of Rio de Janeiro, and enjoy the spectacle of the Olympic Games, the first Games in south America,” Renato Ciuchini, chief commercial officer at Rio 2016, told SportBusiness International.

Easing Pressure

The agreement has seen Airbnb become an official supplier to Rio 2016 alongside international education company EF Education First, ticketing group CTS Eventim, security provider ISDS, market research company Nielsen, sportswear giant Nike, workforce solutions provider ManpowerGroup, technology company Symantec and fitness equipment manufacturer Technogym.

Under the deal, Airbnb will provide around 20,000 accommodation options to sports fans in the Brazilian city and help address difficulties the city is having in developing the necessary infrastructure in the sector.
Embratur, the Brazilian Tourism Institute, estimates that 380,000 foreign tourists will visit Rio during the Olympics.

As an official supplier, Airbnb will be included in the 2016 Olympic Games ticketing platform via a specific landing page where customers are able to book their accommodation in Rio. Through official supplier status there will also be exclusive activities, tickets and experiences reserved for the Airbnb community.

Ciuchini says that the Airbnb deal will allow some of the strain to be taken off the city’s hotel infrastructure.

“Rio 2016 will use on average 50 per cent of the total capacity of the city’s hotels,” he adds. “This alternative hosting platform is an excellent way to offer the public good hosting solutions that are close to the venues and across a wide range of prices.”

Home from Home

Ahead of the Olympics, Airbnb will be given the opportunity to further extend its reputation with leading sporting events when it partners with the 2015 Copa America, which gets underway in Chile on June 11.

Announced shortly after the tie-up with Rio 2016, Airbnb’s partnership with the Copa America represents a first for the world’s oldest national team football tournament.

As the preferred accommodation supplier, Airbnb will promote accommodation in Antofagasta, La Serena, Viña del Mar, Valparaíso, Santiago, Rancagua, Concepción and Temuco – the eight host cities.

For the Copa, Airbnb has created a specific landing page where customers can book listings in Chile, and in common with its Rio 2016 partnership, it has the right to use the tournament name and brand, along with being able to offer exclusive tickets and experiences that are reserved only for the Airbnb community.

With organisers expecting around one million visitors for the Copa, Airbnb will offer accommodation ranging from seaside villas in Viña del Mar and Mediterranean-style houses in Concepcion to apartments located just steps away from the National Stadium in Santiago, where the final will be held on July 4.

World Cup Trials

Airbnb, which began operating in Brazil in 2012 with 3,500 listings, has seen significant growth over the last few years and now offers more than 45,000 listings across the entire country.

Rio itself has been a busy market for the company, with listings standing at around 1,000 three years ago. Currently at the 20,000 mark, Airbnb hopes to boost this figure to 25,000 or 30,000 listings by 2016, and the company enters the Olympic Games market having already gained the experience of catering to another major sporting event in Brazil, the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The imperative need to get on top of accommodation issues when delivering a major sporting event came to the fore in April when the Russian government outlined plans to slash up to 27 billion roubles ($432.7 million) from its budget for the 2018 FIFA World Cup by scaling back development plans for hotels.

A draft decree has outlined the scrapping of 25 new hotels across Russia’s 11 host cities, while 14 others will be relocated to new sites and a further nine will be downgraded.

With the IOC (International Olympic Committee)’s focus on the Agenda 2020 reform package to drive down the cost of bidding for, and hosting, the Olympic Games, Renato Ciuchini, chief commercial officer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games organising committee, believes partnerships such as the one it has entered with Airbnb can be seen as a template for the future of major event delivery.

“The partnership with Airbnb follows a global trend of finding new accommodation alternatives for tourists around the world,” says Ciuchini.

When the world’s football fans descended on Rio last year – along with Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Fortaleza, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Salvador, Recife, Cuiaba, Manaus, Natal and Curitiba – Airbnb hosts, on average, are said to have taken in $4,000 during the event, which ran from June 12 to July 13.

“The platform reaped good results during the World Cup. More than 100,000 travellers who came to the country stayed through Airbnb,” says Ciuchini.

“The special interest in Rio de Janeiro
and the Rio 2016 Games is justified.

The city has become one of the world’s leading destinations for shared hosting on Airbnb, fourth only to Paris, New York
and London.”

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