Airbnb acquires HotelTonight in a continuing effort to become the travel platform

On Thursday, Airbnb announced it was acquiring last-minute hotel booking app HotelTonight. Although the price was undisclosed, it is likely Airbnb’s largest acquisition yet -- HotelTonight was last valued at $450 million. 

What's so great about HotelTonight? 

HotelTonight offers discounted (~17% lower than sites like Expedia) hotel rooms to travelers looking for a last-minute place to crash. The company’s unique guest experiences (see pillow fight kits) and preference for indie hotels have made it a millennial darling. 

HotelTonight has been profitable since 2016 and the acquisition comes as a bit of a surprise considering the CEO was toying with the idea of going public just a few months ago. 

Airbnb’s angle

At first glance, buying a platform that hocks hotel rooms from Airbnb’s largest establishment hospitality rivals seems counterintuitive, but the company has actually been moving towards becoming an end-to-end travel platform for a while. 

Last year the home-sharing platform launched Airbnb Plus, which offers bookings at boutique hotels and actual bed and breakfasts. Plus the company now offers travel “experiences” like comedy Louve tours, cenote snorkeling, and yogi goat hikes

Next up for Airbnb

Airbnb, now with six million home listings, is valued at over $30 billion and will likely IPO later this year or in early 2020.

Ahead of going public the company looks set on expanding into more travel services -- including a serious move into flight bookings.

Last year Airbnb reportedly considered purchasing flight-booking website Skyscanner and last month the company hired the former CEO of Virgin America. 

Stay tuned for more strategic acquisitions and new product offerings in 2019.
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