THE SHARING ECONOMY
Over the last few years, the sharing economy has exploded, with rides on bikes, in cars, and on planes being shared. Private rooms and even entire apartments and homes are being opened to the public. And, with the lines between work and private life blurring more by the day for Millennial and Generation X employees, the sharing economy is entering the business travel industry with full force.
But as travel managers endeavour to meet the demands of their travellers, they must do so without compromising their organizations’ duty of care for employees and travel policy compliance.
According to a recent study conducted by FCM Travel Solutions and the African Business Travel Association (ABTA), almost 90% of business travellers in South Africa are using Uber and Airbnb for business travel purposes. However, as many as 40% are doing so without the permission or endorsement of their companies.
“We have already seen an increasing role in our space,” says Louis van Zyl, CEO of Carlson Wagonlit South Africa. “We do, however, have to match new aspects and opportunities to enhance our customer experience with our role to comply with our customers’ governance and compliance requirements. These are serious responsibilities we have to fulfil and trying to be early adopters and offering cost-cutting opportunities at the expense of corporate traveller safety is something we can’t afford.”
Both Airbnb and Uber – arguably the two biggest names in the travel space, from a sharing economy point of view – have made it clear that they want a significant stake in the corporate travel market, and as such have already developed products targeted specifically at this market.
The former has Airbnb for Work, whilst Uber for Business claims to “help organizations across the globe perfect ground transportation programmes, making them more efficient and cost-effective,” according to Uber.
Uber has gone a step further by entering into partnerships with various travel management companies. As a part of the collaboration, Uber for Business will benefit from additional insights from the travel management industry, allowing it to further enhance products and solutions tailored to the needs of every business.
There’s no fighting it – the sharing economy is going to continue to play an even bigger role in the corporate travel space. Sure, issues such as duty of care and the integration into travel policy perhaps aren’t solved yet, if one looks at the industry across the board, but it’s just a matter of time, and, again, those looking for an edge can steal a march on their competitors if they are proactive and receptive to change.