Here’s an email I never received at work “I want to use an Airbnb property instead of the luxury Ritz Carlton, Starwood or Marriott property for my business travel happily forgoing my loyalty status and points”. In my former role as a Corporate Travel and Finance Manager, I managed business travel full cycle from writing T&E policy, managing third party vendors and ensuring compliance for reimbursement. I loved to research hotel properties and do site visits (inspections) for our recommended lists, however, Airbnb was not an option. For a variety of reasons I wasn’t a fan of Airbnb for business travel, first and foremost was risk management, second they were high touch premium travelers and third, I wasn’t able to vet the properties.
I was curious about the “sharing economy” (which I think actually enables more people to travel which is a good thing) and on my recent travel sabbatical, I had the opportunity to try six different Airbnb properties as a leisure traveler in Europe. My inner hotel inspector is always on so here is why I don’t think Airbnb (similar to a dating service in my opinion) is a good option for the business traveler (some of these are cautionary for the leisure traveler) based on my European experiences.
10 Reasons Airbnb for Business Travel isn’t Good
1. Safety/Security – Risk management is the most important business travel item as the firm is responsible for you. Is the neighborhood safe? Is the building safe? Is the apartment, house, room, clean? What happens in a fire? Where do you go? Is the employee sharing with the host or are solo?
Staying in an apartment building in Milan, I had no idea what the evacuation procedures were – I missed my hotel door map. At another property, I fell down the uneven stairs outside of the bedroom and fractured my foot ending up at the hospital for an X-ray.
2.Research/Review Time – Time searching for a property by the employee is wasted company time. I spent untold hours researching, reading the reviews of the property and host, cross checking other rental/review sites and looking through calendars for availability and price sorting and I still ended up with a few duds. Is the location desirable to the work location? Add in the communication email time between you and the host and the possibility of being told “no” and starting over.
Plus you need to leave a review of the property and host after the stay, which means you need to set up a profile. Lost time working on actual business.
3. Perceived Savings – The rate is nice but then the added cleaning costs, Airbnb fees and other costs add up quickly. You’d be surprised to see that the hotel might be cheaper. If the property is not central to the business meeting/client location, then add costs for taxi or rental car. One flat was €20 taxi ride each way (or public transit and walk with luggage) from the train station and central business district. Additional Costs/Lost time
4. Delays – Travel delays are par for the course. With my London Airbnb rental, I was delayed due to a Eurostar disruption (I had to instead fly from Paris). I missed the 4pm key exchange with the cleaning lady who I was told spoke no English, so the keys were left at a local shop that closed at 8 p.m. I would miss that too but luckily had a friend in London pick up the keys for me. The alternative? Booking a hotel room for the night and retrieving the keys in the morning. Added costs. High stress.
5. Cleanliness – My idea of clean and the host’s idea of clean? Very different. With mold, dust, rusty nails, trash behind the couch and broken steps to name just a few of the many issues at one property, I had to contact Airbnb to resolve (always take photos). The photos online were great but didn’t show the details that matter. I left the property early but the host trashed me on the review which was libelous and against the Airbnb rules (who wants that showing up in their Google reputation/character search).
6. Responsibility – Hotels are responsible for maintaining their property and ensuring the room functions properly. At the Airbnb rentals, I was shown how to use the circuit breaker box, given the trash/recycle schedule and told not to use the faucet as it was broken. The plant below growing inside the house was hazardous with many dead leaves and attracted bugs (how many plants will your rental have?). What business traveler wants those hassles/headaches?
7. Comfort – I won’t lie, I was missing my luxury hotel with Heavenly bed and air conditioning as I slept on futons, hard beds, pull out couches and a single twin bed. One host supplied one towel for three nights which was a bit stingy in my opinion. Another host took two days to supply a hair dryer (thankfully I was on vacation but what if this was a business trip?). I read a few reviews that said one host charged extra for additional rolls of toilet paper (I didn’t book that one). So you may need to go shop for basic items to have a level of comfort. Lost time/added cost.
8. Spotty Wi-Fi/No business center – Wi-Fi was challenging at most properties with two having no service. That’s not good for business travelers. Need meeting materials shipped to you or sent back to the office? At a hotel, it’s easy, at a rental not so much. You’ll need to find the local FedEx office to help you ship items.
9. Food – You’re on your own to forage for food at an Airbnb rental (unless they offer a pre-stock option). At a hotel, room service makes it easy to be on that conference call or work in the room.
10. A good night’s sleep – While the reviews said the outside noise in Milan couldn’t be avoided, I didn’t expect it to last until 3 a.m. I had shut the double windows and both the inside and outside shutters but the air vent let me hear every music note and goodbyes of the bar nearby. Another property had noisy neighbors. If you have a morning meeting, sleep is essential. Whereas, in Venice, the boats started delivering at 6 a.m. each day. No profile lists noise from neighbors or neighborhood.
Bonus #11: On the Airbnb site, they mention how easy it is to rent a house for the team to stay and work together. This, to me, is a HR nightmare scenario on so many levels. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to share a house with my boss or co-workers and have to share the bathroom! Would you?
So imagine, you’ve had a long flight cramped in coach, because your T&E policy mandates coach (sorry about that), you have an address of the property you spent hours researching hoping the Uber (another post on that) guy finds it and you meet your host, who seems really nice but isn’t a hotelier, to get the keys to your “room, flat, house” and open the door to your new place. Was it worth forgoing the corporate hotel (and points!) to be part of the “sharing economy” and playing roulette with your lodging options? My former job was to make your corporate travel life easy – you flew in business class, had a car waiting to take you to the hotel and any disruptions along the way, I was here to help solve it as you continued your business.
For me, as a business traveler, I’m all about the hotels because I need it to be simple and easy so I can spend my time being productive on business as I enjoy my room service food, glass of wine and dessert.
Does your company allow you to use Airbnb for business travel? If so, would you? What has been your Airbnb for BUSINESS TRAVEL experience?