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Airbnb Wanted Travelers To Stay In Homes. Now It's Buying HotelTonight.

Airbnb's acquisition of the hotel-booking app could make it more attractive to investors ahead of a public offering.

Posted on March 7, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. ET

Joel Saget / AFP / Getty Images

Airbnb is buying HotelTonight, the San Francisco–based service that lets people book discounted hotel rooms last minute in 40 countries around the world. The company did not disclose how much it paid for the 9-year-old service.

Airbnb's move mirrors an industry trend going the other direction. Competing booking sites like Expedia and TripAdvisor have been branching out from hotels to vacation rentals. HotelTonight was reportedly profitable in 2018. The acquisition could make it more attractive to investors as the company reportedly prepares to go public.

You can already reserve rooms in boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels, and resorts on Airbnb; adding HotelTonight will make it easier for people to find hotels to stay in at the last minute when home hosts are already booked, the company said. “Nearly 90% of guests who first used Airbnb to book a hotel room and returned to our platform for a second trip then booked a home,” according to Airbnb.

“A big part of building an end-to-end travel platform is serving every guest, whether they plan their trip a year or a day in advance,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement announcing the acquisition. With HotelTonight, the company "will offer guests an unparalleled last-minute travel experience that provides unique, memorable hospitality on every trip, on any schedule, at any time.”

Airbnb has more than 5 million listings in 191 countries, but it has been trying to fashion itself as an “end-to-end travel platform” before its IPO, which is widely expected to happen later this year. In 2017, for instance, it added “experiences,” letting people book cooking classes and guided tours, although it hasn’t really brought in a significant amount of revenue, according to a January report in the Wall Street Journal. The HotelTonight acquisition will increase the supply and diversity of rooms the company has to offer.

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