Uber for Business is coming to London as sharing economy eyes corporate travel expansion

Lynsey Barber
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Uber for Business is being trialled in London (Source: Getty)

Business travel looks like the next big market to be disrupted by the sharing economy as its poster children Uber and Airbnb unveiled plans to grow the number of business travellers using its services.

Uber has launched Uber for Business, available initially in the US and Canada but with trials taking place in the UK and France, enabling business folk to use the popular service and charge it back to their employees more easily. The service also allows companies to keep an eye on things in one place.

After getting on the wrong side of black cab drivers for disrupting the consumer cab industry, the expansion could put Uber on a collision course with Addison Lee in the corporate space this time.

Salesforce.com and Deutsche Bank are already on board and Barclays in London will be a pilot customer of the service which Uber said it plans to roll out to other markets as soon as possible.

Airbnb, the short term rental startup, has also unveiled a website aimed at business travellers, which offers more suitable rentals including wi-fi and immediate availability while leaving out listings which are shared, for instance.

Currently business travellers only make up 8 per cent of Airbnb bookings, the Wall Street Journal reports, but it has already signed up 30 companies, including Facebook and Eventbrite, to its business portal.

Both Uber and Airbnb have also partnered with Concur, which helps companies manage business expenses and travel programs.

Concur executive Tim MacDonald said the partnerships reflected the transformations in the travel industry. “With Airbnb and Uber, we are enabling, in business travel, what consumers already enjoy about collaborative consumption in their leisure. Capturing this spend then gives companies greater real-time transparency into traveler expenditure and itineraries.”

Concur identified that transactions coming from both companies were increasing- there were 27 times the number of Airbnb transactions this year compared to last, and five times the number of Uber rides.

Global business travel spend is expected to hit $1.18 trillion this year, so no surprise Uber and Airbnb want a slice, and with consumers already on board the sell to businesses is likely to be an easy one.

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