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Airbnb buys HotelTonight in move to expand travel focus

Airbnb has bought HotelTonight, an app for finding hotel rooms at a discount, as it wades deeper into the hotel-booking business to attract a wider variety of travelers ahead of a hotly anticipated initial public offering.

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The acquisition, which Airbnb announced on Thursday, expands the company’s inventory by adding a number of listings from hotels—long viewed as the arch enemy of Airbnb—and is part of a strategy to win over travelers who have shied away from the risks and quirks of renting a stranger’s home. The bid to become a one-stop travel service for more mainstream sightseers puts Airbnb more squarely in competition with large travel sites such as Expedia and Priceline.

Last month, Airbnb hired aviation industry pioneer Fred Reid as global head of transportation, signaling a move into handling airline flights.

“Working with the incredible team at HotelTonight, we will offer guests an unparalleled last-minute travel experience that provides unique, memorable hospitality on every trip, on any schedule, at any time,” Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky said in a statement.

HotelTonight’s listings include large hotel chains such as Sheraton and Hyatt that Airbnb has said will not have a place on its site. Airbnb and HotelTonight will operate as separate entities, Airbnb said, with HotelTonight keeping its own app and website. Over time, Airbnb will add select boutique HotelTonight rooms, but will not change its standards for hotel listings.

Airbnb has been one of the most active acquirers among highly valued venture-backed tech companies. Valued at $31 billion and profitable, it preparing for an IPO this year, and investors will be focused on its growth prospects.

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