Business Travel Show: Sharing economy’s role in corporate travel questioned

Business Travel Show: Sharing economy’s role in corporate travel questioned

A senior corporate travel executive has poured scorn on the likelihood of business travellers choosing ‘peer-to- peer economy’ accommodation such as Airbnb.

“Most corporate travellers don’t like sharing anything – a very low percentage is interested [in sharing sites such as Airbnb],” said Nigel Turner, senior directorof programme management and business services at Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

“Is this an issue keeping us up at night? Not at the moment. It’s a disrupter – the same as when low-cost carriers or budget hotels came on the scene.”

Speaking at a Business Travel Show seminar on the sharing economy, Turner said: “The question is: why would you want to stay in a shared property?

“We’re OK to do it if customers want to do it. But take Airbnb – it’s almost impossible for us to book on behalf of someone.”

However, Institute of Travel and Meetings director Robert Hughes said the San Francisco-based company he works for added Airbnb to its travel programme two years ago. “10% of our travellers look at nontraditional models,” he said.

“Bookings in Europe are nowhere near the US, [but] why stop people so long as it meets certain standards? I see a place for Airbnb in the industry. Hotels are going to have to look at different ways of maintaining market share.

“Regulation is a challenge with suppliers in an unregulated environment. There are gaps there. [But] we feel comfortable. They tick the boxes for us.”

However, Turner said: “A hotel in a corporate travel programme has probably gone through an extensive RFP [‘request for proposal’ process]. To then go to something like this [Airbnb] where there are no controls is strange.”

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