Homesharing services such as Airbnb might be solidly in the mainstream for vacationers, but in the cautious, wary world of corporate travel, the option is still an outlier.
A new survey from the Global Business Travel Association’s education and research arm shows that just 17 percent of travel policies allow business travelers to stay at homesharing properties. The survey, which included responses from 147 North American travel managers, did not define the term or single out specific companies.
An earlier survey showed 37 percent of business travelers thought homesharing was allowed and another 22 percent didn’t know either way, which suggests some workers are staying in such properties against company policy. Projections say that by the middle of this year, one of every five business travelers will have stayed in a homeshare property for business at some point.
“For some road warriors, home shares likely feel more comfortable and less sterile than a nondescript hotel room,” the GBTA report said. “However, for as attractive an alternative as homesharing is for many business travelers, it presents a number of considerations travel managers must take into account.”
The biggest concern that respondents had about homesharing was safety and security of properties, followed by the unpredictability of conditions, nonrefundable deposits, the possibility of last-minute cancellations by homeowners, strict enforcement of cancellation policies, and a lack of consistency across properties.
In a move to win more business travel customers, some homesharing sites are making efforts to address those concerns. Slightly more than 60 percent of those who responded to the survey said they were aware of programs aimed at business travelers, while 38 percent were not.
“As the marketplace continues to evolve, travel managers should periodically revisit their evaluation of the services to see if their previously held concerns have been addressed or if new ones crop up,” GBTA research director Kate Vasiloff said in an email. “Home sharing is probably not going to be a great fit for every company, every time, but travel managers should at least be making informed decisions about whether or not it is allowed in their travel policy and understand the importance of clearly communicating their decision to their travelers.”
Of those employers that did not allow travelers to use homesharing properties, 52 percent considered the option before ruling it out and another 13 percent were in the process of reviewing the possibility.
Services such as Uber and Lyft are far more widely accepted than homesharing; according to a GBTA survey released earlier this year, half of corporate travel policies allow ridesharing.
But the report points out that adoption was not immediate as employers had to consider whether drivers were credentialed or covered by appropriate insurance.
“Unlike ride-sharing companies, which witnessed an immediate rejection and subsequent slower adoption, the decision to include or exclude home-sharing options in travel policies appears to be more measured as evidenced by both the number of people involved in making the policy decision and the thoughtfulness with which inclusions or exclusions were made,” the report said.
The new study was conducted between Jan. 31 and Feb. 10 in partnership with hotel operator AccorHotels, which has a vested interest in the topic. It has made big moves in the alternative accommodations space by acquiring upscale Airbnb rival onefinestay last year and making investments in Squarebreak and Oasis. It announced earlier this year that negotiations were underway to buy private vacation rental broker Travel Keys.
“It would be absolutely foolish and irresponsible to fight against any new concept, offer, or services like this, let alone fighting against the sharing economy,” AccorHotels CEO Sébastien Bazin told Skift last year. “This is where the world is leading us. All of those new services are very powerful and very well implemented and executed. You need to embrace it.”