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Rogue business travelers are good for Airbnb

Rogue business travelers are good for Airbnb
[Photo: Nicola Fioravanti/Unsplash]

Leanne Beesley travels a lot for work, spending eight months out of 12 on the road, drumming up business for the startup she cofounded, CoWorker.com, and meeting with remote employees. Rather than book a traditional hotel, she tends to make alternative arrangements. “I go with Airbnb because the thought of spending so much time in hotels is depressing,” she says. Renting homes makes her feel like she’s at home around the world, she says.

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As a tech startup founder, Beesley is the sort of person one might expect to be an Airbnb user. But she’s also representative of a wider trend taking place in business travel. More business travelers are eschewing corporate programs and booking their own flights and accommodations through online travel agencies or Airbnb. Known as “rogue” business travelers, these workers are keen to travel on their own terms and reap the loyalty rewards. As more business travelers are looking to cost cutting platforms to book their own travel, so too now are corporate travel managers.

To catch their attention, Airbnb is fleshing out an existing relationship with Concur, a travel and expense application with significant global market share. Some 20,000 new companies will now be able to access Airbnb listings alongside traditional hotel accommodations within Concur’s interface.

Since Airbnb for Business launched in 2014, roughly 700,000 companies have used the platform, Airbnb says. Last year, it expanded its listings to include more boutique hotels as a way of catering to travelers who might be skittish about staying in someone else’s home. Now its business segment represents 15% of nights booked. To better suit individual corporate policies, Airbnb will be offering more companies the option to tailor the way employees search for listings through a personalized landing page. For instance, a company may have a cap on how much it will pay per night for accommodations or want to filter for properties nearest to corporate offices.

Airbnb’s custom search started as an experiment last quarter with a dozen companies. With the expanded trial, companies that work directly with newly titled “Airbnb for Work” platform will have access to the feature. 

David Holyoke, head of Airbnb for Work, says he thinks that some of the growth in corporate travel on Airbnb can be attributed to changing consumer tastes. Just as the rise of personal computers and smartphones changed the face of corporate IT, he says, so too are people’s preference for using platforms like Airbnb in their personal lives changing the way businesses book travel.

Business travelers are also using their work travel as a jumping-off point for vacation, he says. More than 30% of Airbnb for Work bookings bleed into the weekend, according to data provided by the company. As Holyoke is quick to point out, it’s not just people who use Airbnb for leisure who are driving growth in corporate bookings. “Our fastest-growing segment is people who have not yet tried the Airbnb platform,” he says.

Other online travel bookers are seeing similar growth in business travel. Expedia’s corporate program, Egencia, saw a 15% boost in sales year over year, according to its most recent quarterly earnings statement. That trend is likely to continue. Deloitte’s 2018 outlook indicates that healthy corporate travel budgets are a piece of the growing travel industry. “Pending global uncertainties, corporate travel is expected to surge 6.1%, its highest rate of growth since 2011,” the report reads. 

Last year, travelers spent $1.6 trillion in global travel bookings.

Holyoke says that the next step for his team is to focus on professional products beyond travel, like more proactively pushing Airbnb as a tool for employee relocation. “Airbnb continues to be a good platform to give people exposure to where they’re going to live,” he says. Employees already use Airbnb as temporary lodging for jobs in new places, Holyoke muses, now they just need to get companies on board.

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