The sharing economy is a multi-billion dollar industry that has revolutionized how we travel in both our personal and professional lives. According to a Certify report, Uber was the most expensed brand in Q3 2018. But while online ride-sharing apps have gained acceptance, the shared lodging sector has not experienced similar widespread growth. Let’s take a look at what effect the exploding popularity of the sharing economy is having on corporate travel policies, and how might it affect your travel program.
The sharing economy is here to stay and, as services increasingly encroach into the corporate world, changes are rippling across all sectors of travel management. Travelers are increasingly asking for the ease and flexibility of the services they use in their personal lives while, at the same time, travel managers are grappling with questions about safety, security and liability. These services can also affect supplier contracts, expense reporting and data collection—all essential elements of a well-functioning travel program.
Before You Say Yes to a Shared Economy Supplier: Four Questions to Consider
- What are the Duty of Care implications in terms of safety, security and liability?
- How will sharing services impact your negotiated contracts and loyalty benefits?
- How do suppliers fit into your expense reporting and data collection systems?
- How do sharing services reflect on your brand image?
On the plus side, as the sharing economy continues to grow, travel suppliers are recognizing the need to legitimize their services. They are working to increase safety measures and reduce instances of fraud by introducing tighter controls and better oversight. Many companies have partnered with Concur, an established expense management company, to simplify the reimbursement process. But even with these changes, it doesn’t necessarily mean a shared economy supplier is the right fit for your travel program.
Until there is more uniformity and regulation among its available properties across the United States, a shared housing situation is simply too risky for many travel managers to allow. The laws and regulations to which hotels must adhere don’t apply in a rental – important details like smoke alarms, deadbolt locks, and handicap accessibility can’t be assured. Lone women travelers are particularly concerned about the security of staying in a private home.
While there are obvious Duty of Care issues regarding employee safety while traveling for work, there are other factors to consider when thinking about changing your travel policy. First, are sharing services really less expensive? The per night cost of a shared apartment rental might be enticingly low, but how does it affect your overall travel program? Negotiated hotel rates are based on the number of stays and, if your travelers start finding accommodations elsewhere, will it begin to affect your annual volume targets? There’s also the loyalty program to consider. Perks like free parking and breakfast available at hotels are a big cost savings. Finally, business travelers rate their accommodations on the availability of high-speed internet access. Reliable Wi-Fi is not an amenity that you can leave to chance on a business trip.
A travel management company can help you work through the nuances to develop policies that align with your goals.
Of course, allowing sharing services doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. Travel policies are always a delicate balancing act, which is why the most successful are regularly updated. A travel management company can help you work through the nuances to develop policies that align with your goals. For more important considerations on corporate travel policies, check out Travel Policy Q&A: Common Business Travel Questions and How to Answer Them.
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