Your CFO just called you into the office. She saw the VP of sales’ expense report for that team business trip in Las Vegas last month. Five years ago, she would have signed off and made a note to talk to him. Your company is bigger now, and growing, and your CFO has decided she needs your help to institute a more formal Travel and Entertainment (T&E) program.
But your involvement with travel has been limited to booking the occasional business trip for executives, and you have other primary job responsibilities. What do you do?
You’re not alone. Business travel experts estimate that a majority of small and midsized firms do not have a full-time travel manager, and many systems around managing travel at smaller and midsized firms are somewhat out of date. According to the 2017 Expense Management Trends & Benchmarks report from Certify, a business trip expense management firm, about 64 percent of companies in this category still use manual rather than digital expense reporting.
None of this is uncommon. “When a company is in growth phase, managing T&E isn’t always high on the priority to-do list,” said Robert Langsfeld, consultant and founder of The Corporate Solutions Group, a travel management and auditing firm.
More companies are using sharing economy travel providers
Many people newly tasked with managing travel at smaller and midsized businesses are turning to providers of sharing economy travel services. Results of an online survey conducted by Business Travel News in 2016 found that 87 percent of small and mid-sized companies reimbursed travelers for using Uber and Lyft when traveling for business, and 43 percent reimbursed travelers for business stays in Airbnbs.
In general, use of sharing economy travel providers for managed business travel is on a steady upward trajectory, as home rentals make business travel easy.
Concur’s State of Business Travel 2016 report showed adoption of sharing economy accommodation providers for business travel grew 56 percent in 2016, based on its own spend and itinerary transactions for companies over a full year. Ride-sharing services are also experiencing increased adoption for corporate travel. The 2017 Certify report cited above showed that Uber and Lyft represented 63 percent of ground transportation receipts for business travel in 2016.
Travelers are increasingly using these services for business travel with or without direct company approval, and as they do, more and more companies are including them in their official travel policies.
It’s easy to get started
There are good reasons for the increased use of sharing economy travel providers, and for you to consider adding them on the front end of your journey to develop a company travel program. It’s easy to get started and to keep track of bookings and travel spend, and costs are generally significantly lower than traditional travel providers like taxis, limos, and hotels—a big plus when management wants you to rein in your company’s travel spending.
While preferred travel supplier arrangements require negotiations based on presenting hard data on your travel spending patterns, you can quickly, easily, and independently set up and start booking on the business travel platforms developed by sharing economy travel providers.
For example, Uber for Business has a dashboard that allows you to enable employee access, monitor trip activity, establish policy for traveler use, and customize expense options and reporting. Lyft has a similar model.
The Airbnb for Work company dashboard includes a variety of cost, expense, and reporting options. These include a map and individual traveler listings so you can keep track of where your business travelers are staying and the accommodation cost for their trips. Airbnb for Work also enables you to search for listings that include specific services and amenities that serve the needs of business travelers.
It’s also simple to set up the travel management platforms developed by sharing economy travel providers. For example, travel managers who use Airbnb for Work say it generally takes about half an hour to set up and enable bookings.
“Setting it up was simple, easy, and painless. It’s not brain science,” said Mark Papale, Manager, Global Travel Operations at Autodesk, a 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software developer. After sending out a company-wide message to notify employees that Airbnb was an acceptable accommodation option for Autodesk and outlining use rules, “employees started booking stays immediately,” he said.
The next time your CFO comes to you to talk about company travel spending, you will be able to clearly show her the cost savings you realized by using an alternative accommodation provider like Airbnb—and likely provide anecdotal information from business travelers about their positive experiences.
“The dashboard in Airbnb for Work makes it easy to understand what I’m spending on travel, what my co-workers are spending on travel and what my employees are spending on travel,” said Tad Milbourn, former CEO, co-founder and de facto travel coordinator for Payable, an eight-person company that provided contract worker payment services and was acquired by Stripe in July 2017. “For business, we’re able to travel at a price that’s either the same or better than what we’d be doing otherwise. So that goes to our savings, right to our bottom line. On top of that we have a fantastic experience,” he said.
“Everything takes less time and costs less money, and we have more fun,” Milbourn added. “What more can you ask for?”