Demand for Airbnb and Uber poses questions for corporate travel offices
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Demand for Airbnb and Uber poses questions for corporate travel offices

Airbnb, Uber and other sharing-economy enterprises are changing the face of business travel, forcing companies to examine whether they can adapt their policies to accommodate the demands of the next generation of corporate travellers.

“Airbnb and Uber have turned their various industries upside down,” Johnny Thorsen, the senior director strategy and product marketing at travel technology group Concur, told the CAPA 2015 Corporate Travel Innovation Day in Sydney on Monday. “New generation business travellers like Airbnb. They came from couch-surfing. Airbnb is a big step up from couch-surfing.”

Airbnb, which allows individuals to rent out their homes and private rooms to travellers, has 1.5 million rooms available globally. It is popular with travellers interested in staying in a neighbourhood and who want ready access to laundry and cooking facilities. It is developing Airbnb for Business to target the lucrative corporate market, a product that includes a central billing system and a dashboard for tracking employee spending.

Other sharing-economy companies, such as car service Uber and dining conduit Eatwith, which allows chefs to open their private homes to bookings from locals and travellers, are also becoming sought after by corporate travellers who have already used them for leisure travel.

Demands drive change

“The most disruptive thing occurring today is perhaps not the technology but the demands of the traveller,” said Amadeus IT Pacific managing director Tony Carter. “It is demand that drives change. We are seeing what travellers want today being very, very different and changing rapidly.”

Emirates divisional vice-president Australia and New Zealand Rob Gurney said companies need to be more responsive to requests from the next generation of travellers or they would miss out on hiring top talent.

“Going forward, and in some industries this is more prolific than others, to attract the best talent companies are going to have to accommodate the wishes and needs and desires of the young people they attract,” he said. “Young people are going to demand to travel on whichever they want to travel, stay wherever they want to stay, go to restaurants of their choice.”

National Australia Bank business travel specialist and supply sourcing expert David Crawford said the bank, which has active profiles for more than 16,000 travellers, does not allow employees to use Airbnb or Uber.

“We have negotiated contracts with hotels,” he said. “We deliver volumes to properties to get discounts. We want to deliver to those vendors that we contract with. It is a matter of security and safety. We have female travellers alone. What is the security and safety of each of the places they would be going to? There are question marks over that. We are being conservative before we engage that.”

But Mr Crawford said both Uber and Airbnb would be considered in the future, subject to resolving potential safety, security and insurance issues. “Everything is on the table,” he said. “It is not, no. It is not yes, yet, either.”

ACE Insurance head of accident and health Australia and New Zealand Lesley Jacques said corporate insurance policies were generally broad enough that they would cover problems with services like Uber, whether or not they were approved under a company’s corporate travel policy.

ACE Insurance head of accident and health Australia and New Zealand Lesley Jacques said corporate insurance policies were generally broad enough that they would cover problems with services like Uber, whether or not they were approved under a company’s corporate travel policy.

“The reality is our insurance policies are not that strict on you getting an Uber car or not getting an Uber car,” she said.

But that’s not enough to satisfy everyone. Infosys Portland senior category manager corporate travel Dorina Santos, who helps advise companies on their travel programs, said businesses were struggling with their policies on Airbnb and Uber because they realised the services were useful. However, she said caution was warranted until companies had shown they could mitigate the duty of care process

Airbnb has 1.5 million rooms available globally. Airbnb, Uber and other sharing-economy enterprises are changing the face of business travel, forcing companies to examine whether they can adapt their policies to accommodate the demands of the next generation of corporate travellers. “Airbnb and Uber have turned their various industries […]

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