The sharing economy is here to stay—and like other products and services that capture consumer zeitgeist, it’s making inroads into business travel. An ExpertFlyer.com survey of 1,500 business travelers showed that more travelers are using ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft while on a business trip: 25 percent use ride-sharing services vs. 17 percent who use taxis. And in 2015, Airbnb saw a full 10 percent of its listings come from business travelers. It’s no wonder, given that a 2015 Priceonomics article (“Airbnb vs. Hotels: a price comparison”) puts the average savings for New York City hotel rooms at 57 percent over hotels and 27 percent over flat rentals.
Big providers like Uber (ride-sharing) and Airbnb (lodging) are leveraging the uptick in demand from business travelers, expanding with services specifically attuned to the business market. For example, Uber for Business offers direct billing and full details on individual trips, as well as partnerships with operators like United Airlines that enable users to book both air and car travel with the same app. Airbnb Business offers access to spending data for travel managers, and offers users the ability to prepopulate expense reports in Concur.
Sharing economy is a hit with Millennials
Millennials are leading the charge, adopting ride-sharing and accommodation services at greater numbers than their non-Millennial counterparts. They’re attracted by the convenience, savings, and the custom experience that sharing-economy services can provide. Travel managers are on board, too—according to a recent Carlson Wagonlit Travel Management Institute study, 43 percent of travel managers consider the sharing economy an important trend, and 31 percent consider sharing-economy accommodations an important trend.
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So what does that mean for the business? Cost savings and employee satisfaction, among other things. Using a lodging service like Airbnb can save costs on both lodging and transportation, because business travelers can opt to stay near their worksite, which can eliminate the need to rent cars.
Creative solutions to cut costs
Empowering employees to use economy-sharing services also encourages creative solutions for staying within budget. For example, one Concur company—ALPS, which provides insurance to attorneys throughout the United States—had an employee who simply rented an Airbnb room near the local office, and bought a bicycle to commute back and forth. It was cheaper than renting a car, and the employee got to keep the bike when she was done with the engagement. Sara Smith, ALPS CFO, says several APLS employees are using the new sharing economy to find creative solutions to travel. “It’s great for our employees—they’re happy, and we save money. That’s the kind of win-win we like to see.” More and more, businesses are taking advantage of the trend toward sharing: Airbnb says that although 40 percent of respondents to a recent survey say their company’s travel policy prohibits the use of non-traditional lodging, 31 percent do allow Airbnb rentals. With the company’s rapid rate of growth (259 percent worldwide from 2014 to 2015), it’s becoming an option for more and more travelers.
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The sharing economy isn’t just about lodging and ride-sharing—on-demand workspaces and services are on the rise, too. In cities like New York and San Francisco, co-working offices have becoming increasingly common—and some of them are expanding to include restaurant and bar services as well as office services. In Seattle, Coterie Work Lounge offers its members private workspaces, conference rooms, and individual tables where they can have meetings or spread out and work, while offering some of the city’s finest cocktails and appetizers. Non-members can use some of the facilities, as well. For road warriors and those who work from home, spaces like Coterie are becoming their go-to method of holding meetings and entertaining clients.
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