The sharing economy, with all its not-so-business-friendly regulatory hassles and insurance issues, is now just part of the way we travel--both for pleasure and for business. But beginning this week, it's trying to look a little less bohemian, and a little more business-casual.
This week, both Airbnb and Uber set up booths at a conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center that's hosted by a massive travel organization, the Global Business Travel Association. If there's an activity diametrically opposed to the act of "disruptive innovation," it might be staffing booths 1251 and 2725 for a week at a buttoned-up convention expected to draw 7,000 attendees.
It makes perfect sense for these super fast-growing companies: The corporate sector absolutely is crucial to the hospitality industry. Hotels in big cities rely on business travel for approximately two-thirds of their revenue. What's more, business travelers tend to be creatures of habit, becoming repeat visitors to favored haunts. They also spend more than folks traveling on their own dime. All that business travel adds up to $1.21 trillion in annual revenue, according to the GBTA.
Cutting into hotels' business-travel revenue could mean big profits for Airbnb and its ilk. Corporate travel was only 8 percent of Airbnb's bookings last year, one of its managers told the Wall Street Journal.
There are obvious hurdles in convincing large corporate clients to bank on a startup that's faced such regulatory hurdles in the largest city in the United States that it has purchased billboards in public transit brashly proclaiming "New Yorkers agree: Airbnb is great for New York City." (Because New Yorkers just adore being told what to think.)
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