The experience of travel managers who have adopted Airbnb for Work as well as independent research confirm that adding Airbnb to your company’s travel management program has a direct and positive impact on traveler satisfaction and annual travel spend.
Research by Rocketrip, a company that developed a platform to incentivize travelers to save money, charted a 54 percent increase in the number of companies that had employees use Airbnb on a business trip from 2015 to 2016. And data presented in Meet the Modern Business Traveler, sponsored by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) and American Express Global Business Travel, tracked a 40 percent increase in the use of sharing accommodation providers like Airbnb among the 254 corporate travel managers and buyers from primarily larger companies.
Here’s a look at the top reasons why travel managers are adding Airbnb for Work to their travel programs.
1. Your millennial travelers want to use Airbnb for Work when they travel for work
As every travel manager and trip planner knows, millennials are the primary force fueling the use of Airbnb for business travel as they bring their personal travel patterns and preferences into their work lives, a trend now widely referred to as the consumerization of business travel. According to Goldman Sachs research, 67 percent of younger millennials (18 to 24) and 75 percent of older millennials (25 to 34) used an alternative accommodation provider like Airbnb in the previous year.
At Gusto, an online payroll service for small businesses with a mostly millennial workforce and about 250 regular business travelers, about 75 percent of the company’s travelers use Airbnb “almost exclusively” for business travel, said Sean Flynn, Gusto’s Controller. “There are very few people with whom I’ve had a conversation who prefer hotels,” he said.
Most travel managers are paying close attention to millennial travel patterns and preferences as they will comprise about half of the workforce by 2020 and are already the most frequent business traveler cohort at many companies.
According to research in MMGY Global’s 2016 Portrait of Business Travelers, which included more than 1,000 business traveler respondents, millennials averaged 7.4 work trips annually compared to 6.4 for gen Xers and 6.3 for baby boomers. Well over half of millennials surveyed (59 percent) also planned to travel more for work in the coming 12 months, compared with 33 percent of gen Xers and 19 percent of baby boomers who expected to take more business trips in the coming year.
Millennials are a new breed of business traveler compared with earlier generations.
According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) research report Traveling with Millennials, “Millennials in the U.S. value diversity, embrace a global perspective, and are open to new experiences,” characteristics that “suggest a generation of natural travelers.” These same characteristics are synonymous with Airbnb values. They are also synonymous with the experiential focus of travel provided by access to Airbnb’s global inventory of listings in local neighborhoods, and with Airbnb Experiences, which are unique activities hosted by local experts like chefs, artists, and adventurers.
Erica Arnold, a vice president at HVS Executive Search, believes that as more millennials advance to executive positions over the next few years, sharing economy accommodation providers like Airbnb will become embedded in travel policies because they reflect millennials’ personal and professional values. When companies offer Airbnb for Work as an option for their business travelers now, Arnold said, “it shows they are on trend, they are thinking about the whole person.”
2. You can realize significant savings on your accommodation spend by using Airbnb for business travel
Millennial traveler satisfaction aside, cost savings is the number one reason the majority of travel managers cite for adding Airbnb for Work to their travel program. The Rocketrip research cited above found that business travelers who stayed at short-term rentals booked on Airbnb instead of a hotel saved their companies $108 per night on average, or 41 percent.
While savings achieved with Airbnb varies by geographic market and other factors, travel managers regularly report savings of at least 20 to 40 percent on their accommodation spend by using Airbnb instead of a preferred hotel. Here are just a few examples of the actual savings travel managers achieved by using Airbnb for Work.
- “Airbnb complements our hotel program with solutions that we found 30 to 40 percent cheaper than our standard hotel rates,” said Elena Warburton, Director of Global Travel for RingCentral Inc., a provider of cloud unified communications and collaboration solutions. “Our average daily hotel rate company-wide is about $202, including all locations internationally across the entire organization, but our average daily rate with Airbnb for the entire organization is $109.”
- “We are seeing as good as $200 a night in savings with our Airbnb average daily rate compared with our average preferred hotel rates, so it’s pretty significant,” said Gusto’s Flynn.
- “We average $160 a night on Airbnb and hotels are way above $200 a night on average,” said Anders Nordin, head of international operations for Vungle, a provider of marketing video platforms. “It’s a big saving compared to hotels in general.”
- “Our ADR year-to-date is $84 Canadian, so that’s about a 50 percent savings or more compared with hotels,” said Karena Graca, Travel Coordinator for Graham, an integrated construction solutions firm. “Graham is an employee-owned company, so everybody is concerned with the bottom line,” she said. “The travelers tend to spend the company money like they would spend their own.”
3. More inventory options, which means more choices for your travelers and more ways your company can use Airbnb for a variety of travel needs
Airbnb provides vastly more room inventory than traditional accommodations. Since its launch in 2008, Airbnb now exceeds 4 million listings in 65,000 cities in 191 countries, with more listings added daily. Some examples of property types for business travel include homes, apartments, bed-and-breakfasts, bungalows, villas, guesthouses, lofts, and in-law units. Many are private listings, where the host is not present.
Airbnb’s inventory offers travelers a broad range of choices to match their personal style and location preferences. It also gives travel managers many more options to accommodate employees who are traveling for business, including short-term stays for conferences or events, extended stays, relocations, team travel, executive travel, offsite meetings, corporate retreats, special events, and incentive/reward trips.
Team travel is a key use of Airbnb at Medallia. “Medallians are often travelling together for a work event as a team,” said Alla Neys, Director of Global Travel Programs at Medallia, a cloud-based customer feedback firm. “As a result, there’s a social element of staying together and working together. Airbnb is perfect for folks who might want to stay together as a group.”
Business travelers at TransferWise, an international financial exchange service based in London, also use Airbnb for team travel. “One of the important benefits of using Airbnb for Work is the price,” said Marta Kutt, Global Facilities Manager for TransferWise. “If you have a group travelling together, it’s just so much more cost efficient than using a hotel.”
Graca said Graham travelers use Airbnb for different types of business travel, including solo travel to attend conferences in locations where the company does not have a preferred hotel, high-priced markets with tight inventory, and long-term stays.
“We have a lot of contract workers who come in and work for a week and might go home for the weekend, or they work 10 days on and 10 days off, and they are paid a living allowance on top of their salary to cover everything—food, lodging, car,” Graca said. “Some are renting a room in an Airbnb for $25 a day so they are thrilled as that’s more money in their pocket. Up until now they have had to find furnished, short-term apartment rentals that they have had to pay for even when they aren’t using it. Or, they go over their living allowance and they are paying out of their pocket to stay in a hotel. So, using Airbnb is more than ideal for them.”
Offsite meetings are another way many travel managers use Airbnb for their company’s business travel needs.
“We can do offsites that simply just weren’t possible before for $500 or $600 a night for eight people,” said Tad Milbourn, former CEO and co-founder of Payable, that provided payment solutions for contract workers and was sold to Stripe in July 2017. “Do the math; that’s 70 bucks a person. That’s way less than we’d spend for five, six different rooms at a hotel of even medium quality.”
Milbourn added that staying together in an Airbnb for an offsite meeting or a conference results in “a drastically different experience” than using hotels for the same purpose. Staying together in an Airbnb “leads to a different sort of collaboration, a different sort of bonding, that’s more productive for the company, more productive for our relationships as colleagues,” he said.
4. Happy travelers are more productive travelers, and more likely to stay with your company
The ability to personalize the travel experience on many different levels, along with an increased interest in authentic, immersive travel experiences for leisure and work trips, consistently drive high satisfaction levels with Airbnb.
According to Morgan Stanley’s most recent Global Insight Report on Internet, Lodging, Leisure and Hotels (click here to download the report), more than 90 percent of Airbnb users surveyed were satisfied with their experience. Research of 1,400 travelers conducted in 2016 by financial services firm Cowen and Company found customers who used Airbnb for business travel were five times more likely to be more satisfied with Airbnb than with their average hotel stay. “Airbnb customers in our survey were passionately in favor of the service,” Cowen analysts said in the report, in which 82 percent said they would recommend Airbnb to others.
That independent research is echoed by travel managers who have adopted Airbnb for Work.
For Gusto travelers, the most satisfying aspect of using Airbnb for work trips is “definitely the ability to travel and interact in your professional life the same way you would in your personal life, which is one of the boundaries we are hoping to break down here,” said Flynn. “Airbnb goes a long way in doing that. You get the same feeling checking into an Airbnb for a work trip as you do for your weekend trip to the mountains. It’s a contiguous feeling between those things. It’s a creative balance.”
Being on the road provides many challenges for business travelers, including stays in hotel rooms that look and feel the same in any city anywhere in the world.
“Airbnb is not a cookie cutter experience,” said Medallia’s Neys. In addition to getting a bigger space that feels like home, “with Airbnb, there’s the element of surprise and a feeling of adventure,” she said. “Some travelers might want the standard corporate hotel room, and that’s fine. But for travelers who have a taste for variety and adventure, Airbnb delivers that special experience, so we like to provide our employees with that choice.”
For Medallia, incorporating Airbnb for Work into the company’s corporate travel policy is fundamentally “about quality of life for our travelers,” Neys said. “When people make the choice to use Airbnb, they are happier overall. And happy people are more productive employees!”
They are also more likely to stay with your company. In a Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) blog article citing Creating a Frictionless Travel Experience, a 2017 study from GBTA and Sabre Corporation, 79 percent of North American respondents said their business travel experience has an impact on their overall job satisfaction, which is highly correlated to retention.
For frequent business travelers in particular, travel policy is a key factor for retention. The MMGY Global research report Traveler Friction: Insights from U.S. Road Warriors found that 84 percent of respondents were interested in taking a different job with a firm offering a very attractive travel policy, and 83 percent said a new firm’s travel policy is equally or more important to them than new pay and responsibilities. Survey respondents also identified the ability to choose more comfortable and/or convenient accommodations as one of their top travel requests.
5. Airbnb for Work will streamline your workflow with simplified travel management technology and key partnerships
Airbnb for Work includes access to a company dashboard that features comprehensive analytics tools you can use to track and report traveler activity and spend.
“It’s very easy to use,” said Vungle’s Nordin. “You get the overview and all the basics are there, you see all the properties, how we are tracking employees, and you see the average daily rate.”
“The reporting and tracking side of Airbnb has been enormous for us,” said Gusto’s Flynn. “It lets us give our budget owners information on who traveled, how long they were gone for, and how well they did on the cost.” Flynn finds the company dashboard’s average daily rate box particularly useful. “Certain statistics are just very, very powerful, and for either proving something to yourself, or proving something to people who are charging you with saving money on travel, it is a very powerful statistic,” he said.
Data from the dashboard can be integrated into other corporate travel platforms, including SAP Concur, an expense management and online booking firm, and travel management companies American Express Global Business Travel and BCD Travel. The dashboard is also integrated with leading duty of care providers including WorldAware, iSOS, UnitedHealthcare Group, and Anvil.
“The only reason we were able to incorporate Airbnb into our travel program is the integration with iSOS,” said Autodesk’s Papale. “That has been huge for us.”
Expanding your travel program to include Airbnb for Work can support your travel management goals, whether you are focused on saving money for your company, improving traveler satisfaction, adapting policy to millennial travelers needs and wants, streamlining your workflow, expanding accommodation options for different types of business travel—or all of the above.