Deconstructing Airbnb’s Full Value For Corporate Travel Managers

Skift Take: The next generation of business travelers is clearly interested in home-sharing accommodations, based on the value they provide both in terms of cost and traveler satisfaction. — Dawn RzeznikiewiczCorporate travel managers are increasingly focused on improving overall business traveler satisfaction, including how to help employees boost productivity during their travels.
Balancing traveler satisfaction and travel spend has always been important to managers, but the evolving expectations among Gen X’ers and millennials are pushing managers to adapt to new realities. That’s according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) report last year, Traveler Satisfaction: Exploring the Generational Divide in Business Travel, which states: “Unsatisfied employees cost our workforces billions of dollars in lost productivity each year.”
The GBTA research shows that younger generations are seeking a wider range of hospitality suppliers to choose from, specifically those that align with their individual travel preferences. This demand is shifting how corporate travel managers view alternative accommodations such as Airbnb. They’re realizing that the value of home-sharing for business travelers sometimes extends well beyond price.
The rising interest in Airbnb for business travel is clear. According to Rocketrip’s 2016 Business Travel Spending Report, there was a 54 percent increase of Rocketrip clients with an employee who booked a property on Airbnb in 2016 over the year prior, while the average spend per company on Airbnb increased 39 percent. Overall, business travelers booking with Airbnb saved an average of $108 on nightly accommodations in 2016, equating to as much as 41 percent lower costs for their company, depending on the market.
Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley research states that the number one reason travelers are using Airbnb relates to price (53%), followed by location (35%), authentic experiences (33%), and “an easy to use site/app” (28%). The financial firm’s data shows that Airbnb lodging is 8 to 17 percent less expensive in Europe than a regional hotel’s average daily rate. In the U.S., Airbnb accommodations cost 6 to 17 percent less than traditional accommodations.
In terms of adoption, Morgan Stanley reports that 12 percent of business travelers used Airbnb in 2015, and 18 percent used it in 2016. The company predicts that figure will rise to 23 percent in 2017.
A 2016 study by the Cowen and Company financial services firm showed that 90 percent of business travelers who have booked Airbnb find the experience more or equally satisfactory than traditional accommodations.
The research also suggests further growth among new users who haven’t booked a property on Airbnb yet. The report reads: “Among the 26 percent of survey respondents who knew and understood what Airbnb was, but had not yet stayed in an Airbnb, 82 percent said they would be willing to try Airbnb in the future.” In addition, more than 80 percent of respondents said they are likely or very likely to recommend Airbnb to a colleague.
Business travelers also report that they’re often more productive in a quiet home environment where they can control the atmosphere, work alone without distractions, and avoid the congestion, noise, and general busyness typical in hotel lobbies and coffee shops.
From the perspective of travel managers, the opportunity to better customize accommodation options results in happier, and therefore more productive
employees.
Being on the road provides many challenges for business travelers, and one of the biggest is a sterile environment that looks and feels the same in any city. By
alleviating some of these stressors, companies can improve employee retention. It’s estimated that replacing employees can cost between 20 to 200 percent of an employee’s annual salary, according to a study from the Center for American Progress.
The Business Value of Traveler Satisfaction
Travel managers at small and medium size companies can gauge the value of using Airbnb solely by rate to make the business case for integrating home-sharing into their managed travel programs. Beyond that, however, there are a number of other significant advantages that Airbnb offers in specific segments of business travel, especially with regard to extended stay bookings, corporate relocations, corporate retreats, and conference travel.
These segments are where Airbnb is presently proving to have a positive impact on traveler satisfaction, and also where companies are seeking new solutions.
“How we engage corporate travel managers, contrary to what people might think, isn’t about us versus hotels,” says David Holyoke, Global Head of Business Travel at Airbnb. “We think we can be a complementary product solution within their managed program. We know there are specific use cases where traditional lodging accommodations may not be meeting their needs, so we work with managers, and say, ‘Let’s identify those use cases where we could add value.’”
Sabine Buselmeier, a travel manager for the Ganter commercial construction company in Waldkirch, Germany, has used Airbnb for employee travel for the last four years. The majority of her bookings are for long-term stays in major world capitals ranging from New York to London to Moscow. For her, one of the primary benefits of booking Airbnb is the volume of large listings located throughout a city beyond the central business districts.
“For me as a travel manager, Airbnb is so easy because I can always quickly and easily find apartments close to our projects,” Buselmeier explains. “The apartments tend to be less expensive, and they have kitchens, which is important for long stays. The most important thing is I always read the reviews from past business travelers, because I rely on them to make decisions.”
She also emphasizes that Airbnb’s “Belong Anywhere” mantra applies to extended corporate travel, as much as leisure, because, “Business travelers also want to live like a local when they’re in a foreign city for long periods of time.”
Feeling like you’re part of a local community is equally attractive for corporate relocations, especially when families are involved. That sense of belonging has a powerful influence on traveler satisfaction when a family can explore neighborhood parks, markets, shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions together.
“Having a place to call home when relocating is important, especially with kids, but it also gives mom and dad a real sense of comfort as well,” says Jenny Bulgrin, Manager of Corporate Mobility Strategy at Airbnb. “It can often turn what might typically be considered a stressful time into a bit of a fun family adventure.”
Shorter stay scenarios at Airbnb listings for corporate offsites and conferences are also finding traction among travel managers at companies both small and large. Using an expansive Airbnb home for business events often leads to a greater spirit of creativity and collaboration.
“Instead of ending the night with all of us in separate rooms, we’re all in the same place as a family,” says Tad Milbourne, CEO and Co-founder at Payable.com, an eight-person company that provides contract worker payment services. “That leads to a different sort of collaboration and bonding, one that’s more productive for the company and more productive for our relationships as colleagues.”
For travel managers booking employees traveling to meetings and conferences, Airbnb’s inventory typically presents a rate “release valve” during times of high visitor compression, when traditional accommodations often raise pricing significantly.
But then again, the value isn’t all about rate. After a full day of meetings, a growing number of attendees are discovering the positive benefits of living like a local, where they can relax in a quiet neighborhood and decompress like they would at home.
“We teamed up with Airbnb to really assist our customers, especially in major markets with condo dwellings downtown close to the convention center,” says Gary Schirmacher, Senior VP, Industry Presence & Strategic Development at Experient, part of Maritz Travel. “It’s a really good option for our customers when there’s significant compression where the blocks are sold out. And then some customers are really looking at it when they have a segment of attendees who might want that kind of product. It’s been a good option for us to date.”
For more information about the rise of home-sharing in corporate travel, download the free 2017 Skift + Airbnb report: Demystifying Airbnb For Corporate Travel Managers.
This content was created collaboratively by Airbnb and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.