Why it’s Time You Start Incorporating Data as Part of our Airbnb and Uber Decisions

I have written recently about the importance of using travel data to execute better business decisions. Companies are approaching the use of data as a core element in their day-to-day decision making, especially when it comes to managing their costs, policy compliance and future travel and expense strategy. We all need data to define our travel trends, to measure trip effectiveness, to understand our behaviors and activities and to understand our financial patterns and limitations. So what happens when there is a missing component in your business intelligence? Enter the shared economy and the growing usage of services like Airbnb and Uber by business travelers.

Whether you like them or not these shared economy giants are quickly becoming a formidable option as more business travelers are bypassing their travel management companies and booking directly with this exploding channel. According to Airbnb, 10% of their sales are to guests on business trips. Without including this data, along with other shared services like UBER, the analysis is skewed by the lack of relevant information.

There is something you can do to incorporate this missing business intelligence back into your program. First educate your company on what Airbnb is doing and how it is possibly impacting your business.  Far from the rudimentary system used by Airbnb a year ago, in July 2015, they launched a new tool that centers on a dashboard for corporate travel planners. With more than 250 business clients including Google and Salesforce, the dashboard provides centralized billing, financial reporting data, and information on employee itineraries booked through the service. Companies like Cornerstone recognize the need to incorporate this data for their TMC clients and are working toward that integration in the near future.

Before panic starts to set in – let’s take a look at the type of traveler and accommodation is being sought after through Airbnb. It’s hard to imagine that a major CEO of a company would want to stay on someone’s couch or in their spare bedroom. The majority of alternative accommodations business guests fall into two core categories, extended stay and corporate meetings and retreats.

For workers on long-term projects, or in the middle of relocating, especially in a big city, Airbnb provides a home-like atmosphere that even the best of hotels can’t duplicate. To inspire team building, imagine having your next corporate meeting in a big house or villa with all participants staying together under one roof. When examining the type of clientele that Airbnb Business is attracting, it begins to make more sense and gives both the TMC and company a place to start tracking the itinerary data.

The next step is to encourage TMC’s to help their clients design a program policy regarding Airbnb. If they do allow it, there is an assigned place on their website to enter the corporate ID. This step will bring the data back into the hands of the TMC and will provide the necessary intelligence to make future decisions on policy and budget.

It’s not the perfect solution, but TMC’s and corporations need to recognize that, as the 4th largest supplier of accommodations, Airbnb is not going anywhere anytime soon. Start with understanding their program, identify what type of traveler this would benefit and create a policy to collect the data. From there you have a laid a good foundation on how to manage the growth and adaptation of the shared economy.