Airbnb gets a lot of column inches. And for a reason. Few companies have demonstrated so many of the principles affecting change in the retail and travel industry which analysts talk about so frequently. These include the trend for business behaviour to imitate those in leisure, the growth of bleisure in business travel (combining business and leisure in a single trip) and the growth in demand for authenticity. This is not to mention personalisation, travellers' freedom to choose accommodation subject to price ceilings and duty of care constraints and more besides.
Airbnb has travel management partners such as American Express GBT, Carlson Wagonlit and BCD Travel. Its relationship with Concur means any expenditure with the sharing economy accommodation site can be captured in a corporate expense management system.
The partnership announced this week with Airbnb goes one step further.
Booking, reconciliation and payment and expense management are all important components of a managed travel programme. But they fulfil not only different functions but their by-products have different effects on the rest of a programme.
An expense management system collects information on an employee's allowable expenses. It is likely to help measure compliance to policy because it can flag exceptions. It is a means of capturing the total cost of travel by collecting information on expenditure that doesn't go through the online or TMC booking system such as taxi and restaurant receipts.
It also allows for different methods of payments including cards.
AirPlus offers a centrally billed, or lodge card, solution which means that there is one single number against which all of the company's spend with Airbnb will be guaranteed and reported.
This method is often used for big ticket suppliers such as airlines. Because a centrally billed card is connected to specific bookings rather than just expenditure, more detail on the spend is usually retrievable than that from expense management.
After all, an expense management or corporate card entry can show that €150 was spent on a Eurostar trip between Brussels and London on a certain date. It will not show which service it was on and whether it was in Business or Standard class. A booking will.
Expense management collects a lot of information but doesn't in itself allow for the granular detail that can reveal booking and traveller behaviour. As a centrally billed card is directly connected to individual bookings, it is more than a payment device and therefore will potentially carry more data.
Card solutions and expense management systems are both intrinsic parts of a managed travel programme. Airbnb has just ticked one more box in its march to become a standard option within corporate travel programmes.