It’s no surprise that sharing economy services like Airbnb and Uber have earned growing acceptance among business travelers in Africa. However, from the perspective of corporate travel managers who oversee policy decisions, the use of these services has historically been the exception rather than the rule. Many organizations did not have expense account functions set up to easily approve such transactions, and very frequently, sharing economy inventory was not surfaced in employee travel booking searches. That’s now starting to change, as executive-level corporate travel decision-makers and sharing economy companies continue to professionalize their services, further integrating them into existing corporate travel platforms.
The principal reason for this shift is the changing habits of business travelers. In fact, sharing economy leaders like Uber and Airbnb are continuing to mature from niche disruptors into mainstream leaders for both consumers and business travelers alike. An ABTA study of African business travellers found respondents chose ridesharing as their ground transport choice ahead of taxis, rental cars, and car services, citing ease of use, simplicity of payment, and low cost.
In 2019, this organic groundswell of sharing economy adoption among business travelers is likely to be matched by growing efforts to further formalize and integrate such services into corporate travel policy and tools. More respondents said their organization now permit ridesharing services for business trips.
Recognizing the need to provide greater con dence with travel managers and corporate travelers, Airbnb is now further expanding and formalizing its corporate travel service offering. Now called Airbnb for Work, the platform includes a dashboard for tracking traveling employees and eliminating expense reports. And in September 2018, Airbnb for Work announced it had integrated Airbnb Experiences and curated lists of meeting-appropriate homes into its business travel booking platform. Launched in April 2018, Airbnb for Events allows meeting planners to create an interactive map of Airbnb-listed properties within reach of the event venue for attendees seeking alternative lodging. The company is also leveraging its map-based technology for other meetings industry uses, such as event registration and management.
Looking ahead to 2019, the question for those in the corporate travel sector isn’t if the use of sharing economy will continue to grow. All signs suggest it will, and business travelers will continue to use shared options whether they have formal company approval or not. Instead, the challenge will be if the growing acceptance of such services among travel brands and corporate travel managers keeps up with demand. Because the companies that do not include sharing options in their travel policies will only end up frustrating employees and hindering business progress.