The sharing economy is becoming a viable means of providing accommodation for business travellers. Companies such as peer-to-peer rental platform Airbnb have launched dedicated self-service business travel portals, with tools enabling corporates to reserve bookings, plan itineraries and manage expenses. Meanwhile entire homes can now be specifically listed as “Business Travel Ready” with key offerings such as free wifi guaranteed to be provided.
But are platforms such as Airbnb actually useful for business travellers? Before you book, here are six facts about using Airbnb for business.
1. Who uses it?
According to Airbnb, some 50,000 companies booked with Airbnb for business travel purposes in 2016. This amounted to approximately 10 per cent of all Airbnb stays that year. Companies that have signed up to Airbnb’s Business Travel programme include Google, audio distribution company SoundCloud and cloud communications company Twilio.
2. Who can book it?
Along with business travellers themselves, in June 2016 Airbnb added a new feature enabling personal assistants and travel managers to reserve stays on behalf of individual travellers.
3. Quality can vary
With hundreds of listings of varying quality, sharing economy platforms are definitely at a disadvantage compared to hotel or serviced apartment companies, where quality is more consistent and reliable. Not only that, but high-end hotels can guarantee higher efficiency and a suite of services such as room service, on-site gyms and wake-up calls, that could be essential for some business travellers.
4. Flexibility can be a plus
Where sharing economy platforms fare better with regards to business travel is flexibility. A number of travel managers have suggested that business travellers prefer the flexibility that Airbnb accommodations permit. According to Kelly Cramer, travel manager for Twilio: “Not only are we able to get better insight into how and when our employees are using Airbnb, but travellers can choose a place that feels like home at a price that fits our travel budgets.”
Airbnb has also partnered with a number of companies to improve its offerings for business travellers and travel managers. In 2014 it partnered with Concur, to enable bookings to be monitored through Concur’s Triplink expense management platform. Meanwhile, last summer American Express Global Business Travel signed an agreement to enable clients to track traveller bookings. Corporate card specialist Airplus has also announced plans to develop a booking and payment platform with Airbnb which would bring together flexibility, transparent cost management and compliance tracking.
6. More Human Resources policies
While flexibility is a key selling point of sharing -economy platforms such as Airbnb, it also means more issues in the way of risk management. Companies looking to use Airbnb for business travel will need to have specific policies tailored for shared economy services. As Scott J Brennan, Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s president of hotels says: “Not every property that is available through Airbnb will be made available to our clients. Properties will need to go through a vetting process to ensure the safety and security of business travellers. We will also ensure clients have established HR policies around groups of employees travelling together.”
For more on sharing economy platforms for business travel, read our feature “Home Rentals: Here To Stay”.