As an investor in both tech companies and a corporate housing provider, I get asked the above question about Airbnb with reasonable frequency. It also applies to other non-traditional boarding and lodging alternatives like VRBO/HomeAway and CouchSurfing.
What’s similar is that we both offer travelers a cost-effective alternative to hotel living in fully furnished properties that feel and function more like a home than a traditional hotel room. Our corporate housing properties are located in condo buildings in downtown Toronto and include appliances, cookware, linens, towels, phone, internet, cable and other amenities typically found in a home. Pricing for studio suites start at $90 per night and one bedroom suites range from $100 to $129 per night.
I typically answer the question about the differences recalling two personal travel stories.
The first was a trip of a lifetime that I took between the exit of one venture and the start of a new one. It was a month-long trip to Australia and New Zealand and we were trying to experience as much of the local culture as possible. We used alternative lodging throughout. Our trip started off on a low with challenges to get the keys to our suite, store our luggage and then sleep in saggy beds in Sydney for a few nights. But there were also many highs, including a beautiful beach side property on the Gold Coast outside Brisbane.
In New Zealand, we started and ended the visit in Auckland in an urban corporate suite, which was close to everything we wanted to do and experience. On our tour of the north island, we found utterly unique accommodations in Rotorua and a great surprise – blocks of streamlined Art Deco buildings in Napier. Throughout the trip, we met some nice “hosts” who had very helpful suggestions for us while others were not readily available at the properties we stayed in. I was pleased with our choices, but relieved at times to move on from a specific booking property.
The second experience was while acting as an interim executive for a technology company in Ottawa. My stay was for an undetermined period of time while we recruited for the role. My typical week included flying into Ottawa on Monday morning and returning home to Toronto on either Thursday or Friday evening. I was very happy I chose corporate housing and here’s why:
- The suite was located in a residential building and was close to where I worked. It was in a neighborhood where I could walk to dining options, which was ideal for entertaining customers, partners, employees and candidates. This enabled me to extend the work day during the week and get home early on several weekends.
- The furnished suite was in a building with 24-hour security and they offered additional services like parking and housekeeping, which are musts for corporate guests.
- My initial booking was for 30 days, but the search and on-boarding of the new executive took longer than I thought. I had no problem extending my stay in the same suite several times. My stay ended up being closer to 90 days. Now that I’m involved with the corporate housing industry, I know that providers build flexibility into their calendar schedules for what is termed a “soft” departure date. It’s a must in this industry as many corporate projects, home repairs/renovations or relocation efforts experience delays. The soft departure is a key benefit of corporate housing that Airbnb and other on-line lodging sites, which rely on published firm on-line calendars, cannot provide to users.
- A dedicated team of hospitality industry specialists worked with me to select the right corporate housing suite to meet my needs. They provided hotel-like check-in, check-out and maintenance services on the suite during my stay. Consistency is a key attribute craved by corporate travelers and this is what set them apart from the high variability that we experienced with the many entertaining and unique hosts in the alternative lodging providers’ networks.
My conclusion is that there is a place for both corporate housing and alternative lodging providers like Airbnb. There are reasons why you may pick one over the other. Did you know that the average stay in corporate housing in downtown Toronto is 62 days? This contrasts significantly to Airbnb where the average stay in major North American cities is less than 7 days. I would certainly recommend Airbnb or VRBO for shorter trips where the goal is to seek adventure in unique properties, meet local hosts and come back with entertaining stories to share with family and friends.
If you’re seeking a partner that can deliver a consistently high quality of suites in the best business-friendly locations, delivered with a high level of professional service, then I’d recommend calling a corporate housing provider like Urban Flats Toronto. We’re proud members of the Corporate Housing Providers Association, who offer a directory to find reliable service providers in many locations, as well as general information on the industry. Click on their logo below to learn more.