The Shared Experience
Business Traveler|June 2017

From car rides to cool cribs to corporate jets, the on-demand economy offers up alternatives in travel

Mark Rowh

It’s hard to escape the sharing economy these days. What started out as a simple but innovative business model – using a smart phone app to hook up with an empty ride or an extra bedroom in a strange city – has turned into worldwide phenomenon. In travel as with so many other areas, the concept behind peer-to-peer access is changing the way things work, and business travel is not immune from its revolutionary impact.

While it’s anybody’s guess where this movement will eventually lead, significant growth seems certain. Pricewaterhouse-Coopers has estimated that by 2025, the five main sectors of the streaming economy (peer-to-peer finance, online staffing, peerto-peer accommodation, car sharing and music and video streaming) could generate global revenues of $335 billion.

Obviously the trends in ride sharing and accommodations are of primary interest for corporate travelers. In the ride sharing sector alone, as recently as March, Uber reports corporate users traveling more than six million miles a week using Uber for Business. And on-demand services in such areas as private aviation are fast catching on.

Even the terminology continues to evolve. The sharing economy has also been called the on-demand economy, the collaborative economy and the gig economy, among other terms, and different descriptions of its sectors have also emerged. Last year the US Department of Commerce issued a report on what it has labeled “digital matching firms.”

The government has proposed that this definition be used for companies that use IT systems to facilitate peer-to-peer transactions, rely on user-based rating systems for quality control, offer workers flexibility in deciding their typical working hours, and rely on the workers using their own tools and assets in providing service.

The Business Side

Whatever this new economic elephant in the room is called, such options are bringing increasing interest from business travelers. In response, providers such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb are taking steps to make their services attractive to managed travel programs. “They are tailoring their products to meet business needs,” says Miriam Moscovici, director of emerging technologies at BCD Travel. “All have launched new programs in recognition of what managed travel programs want.”

Typical are the recent measures taken by headliner Uber, which operates in more than 400 cities and 70 countries. To appeal to the corporate sector, Uber has fielded features that handle everything from controlling employee access to establishing guidelines on when and where employees may travel. For policy clients, trips are automatically billed to the company along with details such as cost, expense code, vehicle type and route.

Other helpful features include monthly billing and the option to purchase rides for guests to corporate events. Guest passes can be customized with date, time and a promo code.

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