In early 2017 Airbnb declared itself ‘Business Travel Ready’ with the full-on launch of its eponymous program to provide business travelers the most appropriate accommodations and corporate travel managers with a range of related tools.
Initially piloted back in 2015, the program combines home comforts with the convenience of a business class hotel supported by direct expensing via invoice or company credit card. Lyft for Business offers similar visibility with dashboard tracking of employee itineraries and spending.
Amidst continuing corporate concerns over traveler safety, duty of care and the lack of visibility of off-program travel bookings, both products demonstrate the disruptors’ desire to be recognized as responsible suppliers to the sector.
Disruptors like Airbnb and Lyft have invested in building their brands and in partnering with established distribution channels. These strategies are working. In 2015, Airbnb reported that 250 companies had signed up for Business Travel Ready. By April 2017, that figure had risen to over 250,000 companies worldwide.
With corporates keen to give their travelers a bigger voice in shaping travel programs, more and more are now re-evaluating the benefits of including disruptors like Airbnb and Lyft in their programs, balancing convenience and lower cost against corporate social and employee responsibility.
Concur reported a 33% year-over-year increase in Airbnb usage among business travelers in the second quarter of 2017 when the platform enjoyed its busiest-ever night, with three million people staying in an Airbnb property. There seems little doubt that businesses, led by their travelers, want to use Lyft and Airbnb.
The disruptors’ aim is to displace the hotel and the yellow cab in corporate affections, but they’ve a way to go yet. Overall, just 17% of travel policies allow home-sharing .
Those working with disruptors are either doing so via Triplink, a Concur Travel Integration or one of the major TMCs own Airbnb connections. Each makes Airbnb bookable through an online booking tool. Airbnb TMC integrations combine booking information with reporting and duty of care platforms, enabling clients to access data and track travelers’ whereabouts and expenses.
Airbnb is now much more than a home sharing website, having expanded to include boutique hotels, luxury rentals and bespoke tour itineraries, as well as low-cost hotel alternatives. With guest loyalty programs in the pipeline, Airbnb is effectively going head to head with the online travel agent (OTA) whilst giving the corporate travel manager access to independent hotels. The platform is revolutionizing the lodging market by keeping hotel rates in check and making additional rooms available in locations where supply is limited – especially during peak periods when rates soar.
In the 10 US cities with the largest Airbnb market share, the [platform’s entry resulted in 1.3 percent fewer hotel nights booked and a 1.5 percent loss in hotel revenue . The lodging industry has responded by stepping up lobbying efforts in local and federal circles for stricter regulations governing Airbnb.
Meanwhile, back in corporate travel, not all the problems have been licked. Travelers booking direct on Airbnb’s system instead of via the TMC online booking tool are not trackable for MI or duty of care. Security concerns also linger because of perceptions that Airbnb lodging does not have the same level of security as a major hotel chain with dedicated resources to deal with any emergency.
So, what’s the best way to work with the disruptors? Our advice is to test them out in a single market or region, or traveler group first. Travel managers also need to monitor the many new initiatives being introduced by Airbnb and others, at every stage reviewing their likely impact on the travel program. After all, once the genie’s out of the bottle, it’s a tough job putting it back.