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Airbnb expects a ton of listings and bookings during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. But in the U.K., it’s not the only game in town. The U.S.-based startup is taking out some of the competition with the acquisition of Crashpadder, which is its biggest competitor in the U.K. market.
The acquisition is the latest piece of an aggressive international expansion that has been underway at Airbnb over the last year. Last summer, it acquired German competitor Accoleo and opened a European office in Hamburg. Since then, it has largely taken a build-versus-buy approach, opening regional offices throughout the world in places like London, Berlin, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Milan, Moscow, Paris and São Paulo.
Apparently the Olympics opportunity was too big to pass up, however, and Airbnb decided to boost inventory by swallowing up its closest competitor in the U.K. As part of the deal, Crashpadder will shut down, but hosts on its system will be able to list on the Airbnb.com site instead. Crashpadder currently has 1,700 listings in London, but there’s no way to tell how many will transition over to Airbnb, since that’s entirely up to the hosts. To entice them to join, Airbnb will extend its 24-hour customer service, £30,000 ($47,572) host guarantee and free professional photography for Crashpadder hosts.
In a blog post last week, Crashpadder said that London hosts typically charge between £35-£175 per night, depending on location, room quality and how many people they can accommodate. But as with any basic case of supply and demand, the amount that places listed wind up costing could vary pretty substantially.
During South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, for instance, anecdotal evidence suggests that some places were being booked at two or three times the normal rate. Granted, London is a much larger city, with a much greater supply of hotel accommodations. But for an event as large as the Olympics, there’s no telling how much some centrally located places will command.
While the Olympics should offer a huge short-term payoff to Airbnb, the bigger picture is that the San Francisco-based startup is increasingly an international business. About 75 percent of all its bookings have some international component — whether that’s U.S. users staying in international locales, international travelers booking lodging here, or international tourists staying in other international locations. Having a larger base of operations in London will surely help that growth.