Here’s Why Warren Buffett Is Airbnb’s Newest Fan

A blog about business and economics.
April 9 2014 8:37 AM

Warren Buffett Teams Up With Airbnb to Fight Hotel Price-Gouging

181192365-warren-buffett-chairman-of-the-board-and-ceo-of
The billionaire isn't just protecting his shareholders in the market.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

It's official: Warren Buffett wants his shareholders to use Airbnb.

Alison Griswold Alison Griswold

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

 

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday morning that Berkshire Hathaway is advising attendees of its annual shareholder meeting to avoid the exorbitant rates hotels charge that weekend by seeking alternative lodging through Airbnb. The meeting draws more than 30,000 attendees to Omaha, Neb., each year—a surge in demand that leads hotels in the area and airlines with local flights to jack up their prices. According to the Journal's report, rooms that go for $150 the rest of the year can easily rise to $495 a night during the shareholder meeting weekend.

Advertisement

This kind of price hike is far from unusual—just try booking a hotel room during any college's graduation weekend—but it has long irked Buffett and his shareholders. Combined with airfare and other expenses, the trip to Omaha can easily run several thousand dollars. The billionaire investor told the Journal that meeting-goers should not be penalized with such exorbitant hotel rates, which often get tied to two- or three-night minimum stays.

Only a handful of Airbnb hosts in the Omaha area currently have rentals available for the May 3 conference weekend, but compared with the hotels they're a steal. One advertises itself as a "Berkshire Hathaway or CWS Rental" and costs $650 for four to stay from May 3 to May 4, or a little more than $160 a person. Another accommodates two people and runs $65 a night. A representative for Airbnb confirmed to Slate that the company is in talks with Berkshire Hathaway to increase the supply of hosts in Omaha for the conference, but it's unclear if anything will happen in time for this year's meeting.

Airbnb has rallied hosts for other events, including the recent SXSW conference, which brought more than 11,000 people through Austin, Texas, in Airbnb rentals last month. The company has also added 4,000-plus listings in Rio de Janeiro since the start of the year in anticipation of the 2016 summer Olympics.

Part of the challenge in expanding Airbnb's Omaha network lies simply in growing the rental service's relatively poor brand and name recognition there. For example, when I called up the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau to ask how Buffett's Airbnb endorsement could affect hotels and other local businesses, the representative first expressed confusion, then asked, "What's Air B and B?"

In the meantime, last-minute conference attendees should move quickly if they want to line up an Airbnb rental. Over the course of writing this post, the number of available listings dropped from nine to seven.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Science

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 17 2014 5:21 PM Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS But the next president might. 
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM Should Men Still Open Doors for Women? Or is it ungentlemanly to do so at all?  
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 4:36 PM Is Nonfiction the Patriarch of Literary Genres?
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 5:31 PM Did You Catch Walter White’s Blink-and-You’ll-Miss-It Cameo in Godzilla?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 5:26 PM If Fixing Global Warming Is Free, What’s the Holdup?
  Health & Science
Jurisprudence
Sept. 17 2014 4:49 PM Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music Is it art or a true threat of violence?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?