Sharing Economy Offers Business Travelers More Options (and Hassles)
In the world of collaborative consumption, what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine - for a fee. Pioneering services like CouchSurfing and Airbnb have proliferated into shared cars, bikes, dog sitters, tour guides and even yachts. Those fees add up and the size of just the peer-to-peer lodging market is estimated at $26 billion, luring companies who once focused on adventurous youths to set their sights on even more lucrative markets such as business travelers.
The collaborative economy's hold on travel "started with youth -- so did social media -- but now it's gone mainstream," said Jeremiah Owyang, who recently launched Crowd Companies, a business council that links Fortune 500 companies with crowd-based start-ups. He notes that the collaborative economy -- version 2.0 -- has taken the models of services like Airbnb in an upscale direction as exemplified by the unaffiliated One Fine Stay, a high-end house and apartment-sharing service managed like a hotel with housekeeping, stocked toiletries and luxury linens. "This is not for college hippies but tech entrepreneurs who understand the digital lifestyle."
While the business travel share of the collaborative market is murky, some segments are clearly courting road warriors. Roomorama, which attributes 40 percent of stays to workers, touts value and offers booking assistance to business travelers. Still, the lack of standardization in rooms or cars is a hurdle for many looking to make the most of their time. You might save money, according to e-tourism consultant Frederico Gonzalo, but the lack of services -- from concierge-like advice to a business center or even WiFi -- may cost you. Business travelers are best advised to ask questions before inking a reservation, about everything from cancellation policies to whether sheets will available. "The whole sharing economy you have to look at as a lifestyle choice," said Gonzalo. "You're there for the experience."
Partner in a Las Vegas marketing agency, Ana Yoerg regularly uses Airbnb on business trips and especially enjoys it in San Francisco, where she used to live, taking public transportation and meeting friends in the neighborhood, just like she used to. "That's what the collaborative economy has done for business travelers -- given us the option of feeling like a local when we travel."
Here's a look at how you can share in the peer-to-peer market.
Many business travelers on long-term assignments report that apartment rentals beat extended-stay hotels for making them feel at home. Last year, AirBnB lodged over 6 million stays in 175 countries, a market One Fine Stay, Wimdu and Roomarama hope to challenge.
Dana Humphrey, owner of New York-based Whitegate, used AirBnB to find a room in a two-bedroom apartment near a trade show she was attending in Chicago with mixed results. "It was not ideal as I missed some amenities like a clean towel, a coffee machine and a wakeup call, but I managed and it was an interesting experience and I saved money. The three-night stay at this apartment was the same price as one night at a hotel."
Shared-ride services like Uber, RelayRides, and Getaround now compete with traditional taxis. In Boston, LA and San Francisco, you can skip the Hertz line and rent another traveler's car via FlightCar. In seven cities nationally, SpotHero will help find a place to park later.
Dave Wakeman, owner of Wakeman Consulting Group, swears by Uber to save time, money and hassle. Uber allows you to specify your ride including a sedan which, he says, "adds prestige. You just look more successful pulling up in a black car, as opposed to a taxi." The downside: Uber launched "surge pricing" on high-demand periods, which can make the service more costly than more traditional shuttles and taxis.
Work & Play
Providing rentable work space around the country, LiquidSpace lists meeting rooms and offices rentable by the hour or the day in places including business centers, libraries and hotels. Amenities and facilities vary, so it pays to research what's included.
And when the day is done, find a knowledgeable local to show you around at Vayable, rent an idle yacht via Incrediblue or buy dinner at a local's house through Cookening.