According to Branson, Virgin has been trying to get into hospitality for some time. In 2007 during the financial crisis, the company initially began scouting sites for this project, but prime real estate was not placed on the market because owners were paying very low interest rates at that time. The Virgin Hotels project was resparked in 2011, when the Chicago property was first announced. Since then, the hospitality industry has met the sharing economy and welcomed a brash new guest: Airbnb. In the past few years, Airbnb has hired a director of hospitality and even created its own travel magazine to emulate the hotel experience. Branson, however, believes that business travelers using Airbnb could miss out on some offline social aspects. "Having face-to-face contact inside someplace like the Commons Club [Virgin Hotel's restaurant lounge] makes business meetings that much more social than checking inside someone's flat," Branson says. "Hats off to Airbnb, but there's definitely still room for the right kind of hotel." Get the full story at