August 10, 2014 12:57 pm

Airbnb and Uber on the business travel itinerary

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Employers increasingly view services such as Uber and Airbnb as viable in the corporate travel mix

Uber and Airbnb, stars of the “sharing economy”, recently announced partnerships with Concur, the corporate expense account management company.

These will allow users of Uber, an alternative to traditional taxis, to claim their journeys on expenses more easily; similarly, employees who rent private rooms or homes via Airbnb will be able to charge them directly to their employers.

Airbnb has launched a business portal, which means only relevant properties will be shown to business users, and joined with organisations such as Evernote, Salesforce.com and Eventbrite in order to help integrate its unconventional service with established travel systems. Uber has also begun offering its Uber for Business service.

Lex Bayer, head of global payments and business development at Airbnb, says: “Last year 8 per cent of Airbnb travel was for business. Companies have been coming to us and saying: ‘Our staff want to use you when they travel’.”

Mike Hilton, Concur’s general manager, adds that while Airbnb represents less than 1 per cent of the total value of business travel accommodation, such services are growing fast: “In five or 10 years Airbnb could be comparable to a major hotel chain.”

Business use of Uber is already significant in some markets and growing quickly.

Employers increasingly view services such as these as viable options for corporate travel. One reason for this is the broad trend for staff to try to use a service or product at work that they use in their personal lives. Younger staff in particular who have used Airbnb for holidays now want an alternative to chain hotels when they travel on business, says Mr Hilton.

Another factor is price. Both Uber and Airbnb say they are cheaper than more traditional competition.

For Uber users there are also considerations such as not having to queue at a taxi rank and the benefits of dealing with a central booking system.

With Airbnb, a home is a more pleasant place to stay if the trip is longer than just a few days. It comes into its own, says Mr Hilton, when hotels are not available or when you are visiting a client in a remote place.

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The Airbnb portal’s filtering of properties tailored to work means they will have high-speed internet but avoid shared accommodation or novelty buildings such as a tree house.

For travel managers, the portal will provide information on where employees are staying and allow them to ensure the travelling staff are compliant with the organisation’s policies, such as on cost.

However, the services’ strengths are also their drawbacks: sometimes people want to stay in a place where they know the locations of the light switches.

Mr Bayer says: “We’re not targeting road warriors. People who travel a lot and go from meeting to meeting often want a similar experience from city to city.”

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