by Michael J. Shapiro | July 12, 2016

Airbnb for Business, the business traveler-focused division of Airbnb, has signed commercial agreements with three mega travel-management companies: American Express Global Business Travel, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and BCD Travel. Under the agreements, Airbnb properties will be offered as lodging options to those companies' corporate-travel clients. By adding Airbnb as a preferred supplier, the TMCs make it possible for travel managers to more easily integrate Airbnb data and track their travelers.

The agreements will go a long way in making Airbnb an officially sanctioned housing choice in the eyes of both business travelers and travel managers, according to Lex Bayer, head of business travel for Airbnb. "There's no doubt," he says. "If you look at all the Fortune 100 companies, they rely heavily on their travel-management companies to be a part of managing their corporate-travel programs. The fact that Airbnb will now be an option and a part of these established programs they have in place will really make it easy. We're now making it simple for travel managers to say yes to Airbnb."

The first phase of the partnership with American Express GBT is expected to go live in the U.S. over the next few weeks. First, clients will be able to book directly on using a corporate email address. In the weeks following, Airbnb booking information will be integrated directly into the American Express reporting and duty-of-care platforms.

While agreements with each of the TMCs differ slightly, Airbnb integration with Carlson Wagonlit Travel and BCD Travel is expected to go live in the next one to two months. CWT eventually will offer Airbnb properties through its own booking portal, alongside hotel options.

The agreements will give travelers more flexibility and choice, says Bayer, while also providing more transparency and data to travel managers.

"We're also excited about this because we think when travel managers do start looking at the data, they're going to be very impressed," adds Bayer. "Airbnb offers advantages compared to other accommodation providers: It's much more affordable, and we have way more breadth of inventory; we're in 191 countries, with more than 2 million listings. We expect that once travel managers start looking at the data, they'll see the real advantages."

The option to use Airbnb will come in particularly handy for large conferences in cities with insufficient hotel-room supply,  Bayer added. In terms of more formally using Airbnb for large events, Bayer notes that the company is working on some simple widgets that will make it easy for convention planners to have attendees easily find Airbnb properties near a convention venue. "We want to make those options more readily available for attendees," says Bayer, "but that's something we're still working on."