Monday 21 August 2017

The Personal is Now the Professional: Is Your Corporate Travel Policy Ready for Airbnb?

There’s a clear disconnect between what more and more business travellers want and what corporate travel managers are providing. Demand for using the sharing economy for business purposes is clearly a major trend in corporate travel, but companies are not keeping pace.

In January 2017, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), in partnership with American Express, published the “GBTA Business Traveller Sentiment Index, Global Report,” showing that more corporate executives have been using sharing economy services more often in the last year. However, while companies are adjusting their policies to allow usage of ride-sharing services, they seem to be more reticent when it comes to home-sharing.

The GBTA survey indicated that approximately 50 per cent of corporate travel policies now allow ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft. That’s a hefty increase from GBTA’s mid-2016 report, which reported 44 per cent of company policies approved ride-sharing. Over that time period, business travel ridership increased 21 per cent. Nearly 20 per cent of those who responded said they expected to use ride-sharing more in the next three months, while 71 per cent anticipated using it with the same frequency.

Home-sharing options like Airbnb gained ground over the six months between the two surveys, as well. Thirty per cent of policies allowed home-sharing in January 2017, compared to 28 per cent in June 2016. However, while corporate adoption of home-sharing rose only two per cent, the GBTA research states that the use of alternative accommodations among business travellers jumped 20 per cent.

Jeanne Liu, VP of research for GBTA, attributes the rise of interest in sharing economy services for work-related purposes to the growing familiarity of them among travellers in general.

“I think what we’re seeing is what we’re calling the ‘consumerisation of business travellers,’” she says. “It’s what you do in your regular consumer life. If you use ride-sharing and home-sharing, or if there are certain apps you like to use, it’s going to go into how you plan and how you pick your options in business travel as well.”

Although, Susan Chapman Hughes, senior VP of American Express Global Commercial Payments, cautions that travel managers need to better explain how sharing services fit into their company rules and regulations, because there seems to be some confusion.

“The sharing economy trends that have come to define personal travel are now significantly influencing business travel as well,” she explains. “However, nearly one in five travellers are still unsure whether their employer’s policies allow for sharing-economy services, making it especially important for companies to communicate clear details about the services and amenities that their policy covers.”

Supporting that, the online travel management company, Certify, published “SpendSmart Report on Business Travel Spending Trends for 2016” in January 2017. Certify’s 2016 data shows that Airbnb ended the year with a total of .27 per cent of expenses and receipts in the hotel category overall. While still under one percent of the total, Airbnb’s growth is significant in this context based on comparable business travel bookings among traditional accommodations.

In terms of their percentage of total business travel expense reporting overall, the top 15 lodging brands range from Hampton Inn at #1 (8.82%) to Residence Inn in 15th place (1.18%). Assuming a similar or slightly improved growth rate among business travelers booking Airbnb, Certify expects the home-sharing platform could approach the top 15 most expensed accommodation options within the next few years.

“Business travel got a lot more personal in 2016,” says Robert Neveu, CEO of Certify. “The growing preference for sharing economy services like Uber, and to a lesser degree, Airbnb, really underscores the trend toward consumerisation of traditional corporate travel. Advances
in personal technologies and travel-based smartphone apps have made it easier for business travellers to choose the experiences and vendors they prefer. And the companies they work for are following suit with expanded travel policy guidelines to accommodate new services and payment methods.”

Join Airbnb at the Business Travel Summit Amsterdam, 26-27 September at the Rai Conference Centre, by registering here. Don't miss Global Head of Business Travel, David Holyoke, who is speaking at 14:00 on 27 September.

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