Concur last week released data which substantiates the expense management company's claim that the sharing economy is becoming a more significant player in corporate travel.
Concur has used data going back eight quarters (from Q2 2014 to Q2 2016) and found that between 2015 and 2016 the number of organisations using Airbnb went up 32% and spending on Airbnb accommodation increased 42%.
The figures in themselves are not surprising. Any business or service is likely to show sharp rates of increase at its start because any growth will be measured from a relatively low base whereas any change on a large, established volume is always likely to look small in percentage terms unless there has been a cataclysmic event.
And there is a health warning that Concur has a commercial relationship with sharing economy giants Uber and Airbnb so reports on the strength of the sharing economy are not surprising.
Nonetheless the Airbnb trends are important and fascinating for several reasons.
The chart shows the quarterly rankings of cities by amount of expenses attributed to stays in that destination, a very valid approximation of business travel spend.
San Francisco and London are, not surprisingly, regularly ranked numbers one and two. Airbnb should be strong in San Francisco both because that's where it was launched and is still the organisation's headquarters as well as the home of technology start-ups, which are commonly acknowledged to be the industrial sector which uses Airbnb more than any other.
Alternative accommodation is popular in London because it is the world headquarters of the creative industries which tend to attract young and free-thinking people and also because it has some of the highest hotel room rates in the world.
The other rankings are more variable.
Austin is ranked third globally during Q1 of 2015 and 2016 but it ranks significantly lower for every other quarter depicted in the chart. The high rankings for Austin during the first quarter correspond directly with South by Southwest, the annual film, interactive media and music festivals and conferences held in Austin every March.
Concur reports a similarly dramatic anomaly in the daily volume of Airbnb expenses in San Francisco during the yearly Salesforce-hosted Dreamforce conference in October 2014 and 2015. During the 2015 Dreamforce conference Airbnb usage was 600% of average activity.
The popularity of annual event and conferences such as Dreamforce or South by Southwest might result in hotel room saturation in the host city, forcing business travellers to book sharing economy accommodation such as Airbnb. In such times of high demand, the flexibility of alternative accommodation supply, in comparison to the rigidity of hotel supply, could make them an attractive option for business travellers.
The rise in Airbnb usage during events also could reflect the rise of bleisure which might prompt business travellers to seek a more authentic local experience or accommodation at cheaper than the rate on offer from a major hotel chain.
Airbnb bookings are growing but this is to be expected as it becomes more established and accepted. What is more interesting is the fact that they are increasingly being used not by individual business travellers but those within managed travel programmes who are using mature expense management such as Concur.
There's an increase in business travellers exploring alternative lodging especially during major conferences and events but, more importantly, there's an increase in corporate travel programmes' willingness to accommodate its travellers' desire to use Airbnb properties.