Airbnb's head of business travel has urged buyers to trust their employees when it comes to selecting and staying with 'sharing economy' companies.
Marc McCabe said he understands buyers' concerns around firms like Airbnb and Uber but added that nearly all employees will choose a company that offers the most convenient and most productive option for themselves and their business.
“Most of the time when a business traveller uses Airbnb they are picking it because it's the best option in terms of cost and convenience,” said McCabe. “So trust your traveller to make best use of the sharing economy and the benefits it can bring.”
McCabe was speaking at the GBTA conference in Orlando, during a panel session hosted by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, on embracing the sharing economy and discussing whether safety and security is the “key hurdle” for buyers implementing suppliers such as Airbnb into their travel programme.
The session heard how Airbnb has grown to more than 23 million guests in seven years, without owning a single bed, bath or bar and is valued at $20 billion. Taxi firm Uber organised 140 million rides in 2014 despite not owning a single taxi or car.
“It's about education and talking to buyers about how we can fit into this space,” said McCabe. “We have listened to a lot of feedback and have a better understanding where we can fit in the corporate sector. It's obvious travellers want to use us and we don’t want to create an issue for buyers.”
Rita Visser, director of global travel at technology data company Oracle, wants sharing economy companies to engage with them more so we can start offering it to their travellers.
“When travellers can't find the right accommodation in our inventory we tell them to look again instead of going on sites like Airbnb,” said Visser. “But these are tools travellers are using in their leisure time so help us understand what we don't get.”
Also speaking on the panel was Serge Gojkovich, CEO at valet-sharing firm Curbstand. He said social change was driving business travellers to use companies like his, and buyers must recognise that.
“Your travellers are going out in the world and are not just thinking about what's good for the company but what's good for the world. They are compelled to use the sharing economy because of social change.”
Amit Patel, director of enterprise partnerships at ride-sharing company Lyft, reiterated McCabe's point by telling buyers that understanding the sharing economy is about “educating yourself, meeting with buyers, understanding your decisions, understanding the industry, and understanding the motivation”.
McCabe tried to allay buyers fears about safety and security issues by outlining the work Airbnb has done in dealing with this concern. “We have a whole active community that rate and review sellers similar to how Ebay operates. We are also looking to connect with TMCs and fit into that space,” he said.
Oracle's Visser had concerns around productivity and called on the buyer community to develop ideas to deal with the amount of time employees could be taking to choose from the “hundreds” of different accommodation on Airbnb.
Read an interview BBT carried out earlier this year with Airbnb's McCabe.