Not all Companies Welcome Sharing Economy for Corporate Travel

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The sharing economy definitely had an impact on corporate travel in 2015, but a recent survey shows not all companies are open to the opportunities these “sharing” services may provide for business travelers.

A new survey of 1,500 business travelers conducted by air travel information and corporate travel service ExpertFlyer.com showed more travelers are using ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft while on a business trip. However, despite the rise in popularity of non-traditional lodging options provided through websites like Airbnb, many companies are still not allowing employees to stay in such places.

According to the survey, more business travelers (25%) are using ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft than are using traditional taxi services while on a business trip (17%). Car rentals, however, remain the go-to for business travel ground transportation, with about 35% of survey respondents saying they use this method.

Yet when it comes to using services like Airbnb, 40% of respondents said their company's corporate travel policy prohibits the use of non-traditional lodging. About 31% said their company does allow Airbnb rentals for business travel and about 30% were not sure of their company’s policy.

This finding is interesting considering hotel prices have been rising in the last year. A Hotels Price Index report from Hotels.com, an online hotel booking service, showed hotel prices in the U.S. grew 2% in the first half of 2015. Between January and June, global hotel prices were up 1% as well, the report stated. Hotels prices specifically in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean topped their pre-financial crisis levels.

Airbnb also expanded its Business Travel program in 2015. The business program officially launched in July 2014 but expanded on a global level last summer. At the time, Spend Matters T&E expert Thomas Kase said Airbnb was attractive to business travelers specifically because rentals listed on it usually offered lower prices than hotels in major cities. The amenities in the Airbnb rentals (in-unit washer/dryer, full kitchen, etc.) also accommodated long-term stays, Thomas said.

Another recent report by the Global Business Travel Association showed business travelers are looking for more convenience in the year ahead, while travel managers aim to improve the traveler experience and continue to look at lowering travel costs. It will be interesting to see if more corporate travel policies shift in 2016 to welcome non-traditional lodging options to meet these goals, or if companies find different or new ways to improve business travel management.

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