What’s the Difference between AirBnB and Serviced Apartments?

By James Swift

May 13, 2015


We get asked quite often what differentiates us from the likes of AirBnB, Home Away, Flip Key, etc. because at first glance it doesn’t appear to be much.  In fact, if one were to look at any of the aforementioned websites they could no doubt find more eclectic accommodation options for a considerable savings over the selection that we (and our immediate competitors) offer.  The choice is therefore easy, right?


There is a distinct difference between leisure travellers and business travellers.  The reason that we get asked this question so often is that the leisure market is significantly larger, so companies like AirBnB that cater to this market have inherently greater exposure. This, of course, creeps in to the consciousness of the business traveller.  “Why pay £130 per night + VAT for a one-bedroom apartment in London, when I can find one that is quirky and cool for a mere £75 per night with no VAT?” the travelling manager may ask his booker…why indeed?

  • But AirBnB is cheaper, why would I book elsewhere?
  • Serviced apartments offer more – for considerably less than hotels

The rise in popularity of owners/landlords renting out their flats to the leisure market has in some way done wonders for the corporate serviced apartment industry.  It has inadvertently raised awareness while encouraging otherwise more reluctant travellers to try our unique type of accommodation for their longer requirements (we’re talking 3+ nights, but typically 7+ to even 30+ on average), for this we in the serviced apartment industry are by and large thankful.  Don’t, however, dare to compare us and our professional organisations to individuals renting out their lovely studio in the “middle of the action of Covent Garden,” etc. as what we offer is something that the individual traveller, our guests, may not realise immediately but their company will be immensely grateful for.

  • Apartments are always better for longer stays
  • Choose your accommodation wisely – there is a difference!

Large companies that send people on extended stays around the world for projects, consultations, relocations, or just the bog-standard business trip that might be a week or longer have certain travel policies in place.  Their travel policy exists primarily for two reasons: one is cost-savings. This is apparent through the ubiquitous use of TMC’s (Travel Management Companies) who consolidate all of their clients through their own preferred channels to pass along greater savings – or any other carefully vetted and preferred accommodation/travel supplier, and two: safety & security.  When an individual traveller goes “off-book” and chooses their own accommodation of their own free will (I know I sound a tad draconian, but bear with me) they have not only gone outside their carefully planned travel policy which, when taken as a whole, saves the entire company money (more on this below) but they have in some way perhaps put themselves at risk.

When a business traveller books their travel properly it goes through either their PA or their Travel Manager/Global Mobility Manager, or a combination of the two.  At first glance it may then appear that they are paying more for something they could possibly find cheaper on their own but they are a) staying within policy, therefore saving the company money on aggregate and b) they are tracked.  In today’s day and age it is even more important that a company knows exactly where their travelling employees are for safety and security measures.  Hence, when accommodation is booked through a professional serviced apartment company the traveller’s company may rest assured that they are well taken care of, provided for, and are housed in a known and respected (and vetted) entity.  This is something that no “leisure-focused” agency such as AirBnB and the like can provide.

  • In emergencies companies must know exactly where their employees are
  • Business Travellers that go “off plan” may actually be putting themselves in danger

I don’t wish to come across entirely against these agencies though, honestly I have used (and will continue to use) AirBnB for my personal accommodation on many trips and have found it immensely enjoyable, fun, easy, safe, and honestly light-years above the experience any hotel offers.  But as a professional company, Urban Stay prides ourselves on our ability to provide consistency, safety, predictability, and professional courtesy (okay, that may sound odd but typically AirBnB hosts never even meet their guests!) that no other leisure-focused organisation can.

Serviced Apartments are exactly what they say in their name: serviced.  We provide a personal meet & greet (this may vary provider to provider, but Urban Stay does this for every guest!), guaranteed high-speed and free Internet connectivity w/WiFi, no additional charges, 24-hour emergency phone lines, and a professional staff that is able to handle requests in real-time…we also have preferred relationships with many companies that have vetted us and trust us to handle their business traveller’s needs – this is paramount in a business setting.

  • All that you want in a hotel, but more space and privacy!
  • Services that no AirBnB or other leisure-based apartment provider can offer

By all means, when you’re on your own or on holiday with friends and family book AirBnB!  Honestly, we do as well – it offers amazing accommodations at rates far below what one would pay for a hotel room. When you do though, please know that it is an accommodation booking only.  Serviced apartments, and serviced apartment operators, provide the extra step(s) that businesses demand.  So don’t be fooled.  Of course upon first appearance it may seem that we’re all the same; but we’re not.  One is good for what they do and the other is good for what they do – choose according to your unique situation.  However, specifically if you’re a business traveller looking for serviced apartment accommodation then please refer to your company’s travel policy and speak to the Travel Manager (or whomever the person may be within your organisation) and ask them what your best options are.  Serviced apartments may just surprise you yet!

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