It’s been well over a decade since the founders of AirBedandBreakfast.com — today known as Airbnb — first threw an air mattress on the floor of their San Francisco apartment’s living room to spawn the successful home rental business platform commonly referred to as “house sharing.”
Initially beloved by the vacation tourist needing a cheap and convenient place to sleep, Airbnb and its similar business models are now growing in popularity with business travelers as well.
But are house-sharing rentals right for your company’s business travel? And if so, how do you go about accommodating them into your travel policies and corporate card expense programs?
The growing popularity of house sharing within corporate travel
There’s a definite growing trend toward using Airbnb-type rentals for corporate travel. According to Forbes Magazine, in 2015, only 250 companies used Airbnb for its accommodations. But as of 2017, more than 250,000 companies were using Airbnb for business — an incredible leap of over 1000 percent in just two years.
And, as Forbes further reports, the business travelers using Airbnb aren’t just self-employed freelancers. Rather, its clientele includes Fortune 500 companies, such as Google, Hyundai, and Domino’s Pizza. (To read more, click HERE.)
The pros and cons of house sharing
What’s making house sharing so attractive to the business traveler? Here are some of the pros to using Airbnb and similar rentals over traditional accommodations.
Inexpensive. Nightly rates at a Airbnb can often be cheaper than a traditional hotel in the same location. According to Airbnb, their U.S. guests save an average of $58 a day per stay when compared to hotel rates.
More bang for your buck. You can get much more space for your money at a rental home than you would from a hotel room. Many Airbnbs are more than just a bed and bath. Often, they include kitchens, dining areas, living rooms, and even dedicated work spaces.
Efficient. Not only are Airbnbs more spacious, they often can house more than one employee within one location where numerous activities can take place. Employees can eat, work, and sleep — all at one location, for one price. No need for separate hotel rooms, expensive workspace rentals, or taxi rides.
Business oriented. Since Airbnb has become so increasingly popular with the business travel, the company recognized the trend and responded with properties that are now specifically “Business Travel Ready.” These locations include amenities such as Wi-Fi availability and laptop-friendly workspaces. However, you’ll want to check before you travel to make sure that the Airbnb you choose actually has everything you’ll need for business.
Convenient. No more waiting in long lines at 4 p.m. trying to get into a hotel room. Airbnb and other rental homes typically have 24-hour check-in procedures (including keypads and lockboxes) that make entering the space quick and easy. Airbnb also will bill companies directly for accommodations, eliminating the need for employees to use their personal credit cards to pay for the space.
But despite all of these advantages, the house-sharing model does have its cons as well. Here are a few important ones to keep in mind:
Lack of essentials. House-sharing rentals do not always include what many business travelers would consider to be basic necessities. The list of essentials not provided can include toilet paper, towels, and bedding. Other common amenities — like an iron, a hair dryer, shampoo/soap, and even clothes hangers — also might not be available. Can you imagine having to pack all these items with you every time you travel for business? So it’s best to check that the rental will have everything you’ll need before you arrive.
Lack of safety. Hotels employ in-house security staff — something you will rarely see provided by house-sharing rentals. The security of house sharing spaces usually goes no further than the locks on the doors. Rentals might never have any formal safety inspections that hotels by law must undergo regularly. There also might not be any sort of evacuation plan at your rental in case of an emergency or fire.
Lack of cleanliness and maintenance. Forget about maid service. At most Airbnb-type homes, you’ll be on your own when it comes to cleaning up and making your bed. There also can be a lack of consistency and quality when it comes to cleanings between guest stays. Blankets and sheets, for example, might not always get cleaned or changed from stay to stay. And issues with appliances and fixtures within the unit might not always get dealt with as quickly and as efficiently as they would be at most hotels.
Tips for adding Airbnb to your corporate travel policy
If you decide the pros of the house-sharing model outweigh its cons, you’ll need to add such accommodations to your travel policy. Airbnb itself suggests a number of tips in their article that you can read by clicking HERE. Their tips include identifying your goals, incorporating your company’s culture, considering different travel scenarios, and communicating your new policy to your staff.
Beyond Airbnb’s own tips, we at Card Integrity further suggest the following:
Survey your staff. When incorporating house sharing into your new travel policy, it wouldn’t hurt to get the take of your employees who do the traveling and would be the most affected by the changes. What do they want and need from their accommodations? Would home rentals such as Airbnb be a welcome addition to their choices for stay? What has been their own experiences with house sharing? Does house sharing work for most of your business travelers or only a few? What doesn’t work? Use their answers to craft the most effective and helpful policy for your travelers.
Be specific. Be as specific as possible with the creation of your new travel policy. Make a detailed list of what you plan to do before, during, and after the changes are made to the policy.
Consider limitations. While Airbnb would love companies to be “flexible” with their accommodation choices (in order to be one of them), it’s important to look at the cons of house sharing, and decide if and when an Airbnb would truly be best for your own company’s travel purposes. Use our list of pros and cons to craft a policy that takes them both into account. Provide limits within the policy that will help your travelers avoid negative experiences. For example, perhaps your policy states that Airbnb-type rentals are only to be used when groups of more than four employees will be traveling together and will also require a workplace.
Ensure new policy compliance via travel spend monitoring
Adapting to a new policy can often be a difficult transition for frequent travelers who are trying to keep up with all the changes in guidelines. But spend behavior can reflect whether or not the new policy is correctly being followed and help aid in compliance.
For example, perhaps your previous policy allowed for hotel stays, but not for house sharing. Now, your current policy underwent some changes and allows for Airbnb accommodations under special circumstances. Card Integrity can track changes in purchasing behavior and then communicate that behavior to employees or department heads in order to improve compliance.
Card Integrity also provides online training before and after a new policy becomes active. Employees can receive initial, refresher, or remedial training on any purchasing policies — be it for travel or for a procurement card.
To learn more about how Card Integrity can help you accommodate Airbnb and similar house-share rentals into your travel program, call 630-501-1507, or just click HERE to contact us.