Last week the Business Travel Show and Travel Technology Europe were both held at London’s Olympia. Rob Gill and Matthew Parsons report on the latest news.
The use of “sharing economy” accommodation providers by business travellers is set to grow but is unlikely to seriously challenge traditional hotels. That was the message from the Business Travel Show last week.
Sharing economy accommodation platforms, including market leader Airbnb, have been increasingly targeting the corporate travel sector in the past two years. But a conference session at the show heard that “only a small percentage” of business travel clients were using sharing economy services instead of hotels.
Nigel Turner, a senior director at travel management company Carlson Wagonlit Travel, said: “The question is why would a traveller want to stay in a shared property? Most people don’t like sharing a car or a desk.
“It’s only a threat to the TMC if there’s the demand and you don’t do anything about it. We will harness it if there’s demand.”
Robbie Hughes, a board director of the Institute of Travel & Meetings (ITM), said using sharing economy services for business travel was becoming more accepted. He also pointed out that Airbnb was imposing “stricter criteria” for its properties aimed at business travellers, such as having smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
“Regulated organisations in the City and finance sector are now allowing employees to use sharing economy providers such as Airbnb within their programmes,” he said. “It’s an opportunity that’s growing and business is changing.”
But Hughes added he still expected around 80% of business travellers to continue using traditional hotels and only around 10% of employees would be willing to stay in sharing economy properties, which would mostly attract younger “millennial” travellers.
Lennert de Jong, commercial director of independent hotel chain CitizenM, said that the sharing economy would have “limited” appeal to traditional business travellers. “Airbnb is fine for leisure but it has limitations for serious business travellers – for example, it’s a hassle not having a concierge,” he added.