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Thursday, May 25, 2017
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Business travel in the age of the sharing economy

75% of organisations lack policies or procedures for using these services during international business travel, according to a new report.

In response to the growing global use of sharing economy services, International SOS has found that as many as 75% of businesses do not have clear policies in place for staff using such services. Meanwhile, an organisation’s exposure is likely to increase, with almost half of respondents anticipating their use of shared transport services will grow.

The company has released a report on the benefits, risks and legal considerations of using shared transport and accommodation services during business travel.

“Share Economy for Business Travel” includes interviews with travel, legal and security experts about the implications of services like Uber and Airbnb as suitable options in an organisation’s travel policy. Both Airbnb and Uber have dedicated business travel solutions.

Tim Daniel, executive vice president at International SOS, offered: “While there are many benefits to using these types of services, it’s important that organisations realise that using sharing economy services for business-related travel creates new risks and challenges that need to be managed and mitigated. The goal of the report is to guide organisations in building a travel policy that is appropriate, clear, and considered.”

To understand the current use of the sharing economy in business travel, International SOS conducted a survey amongst business travellers and travel managers. The survey exposed the lack of clear guidance from organisations on how, when and if the services were appropriate to be used while abroad.

While 40% of respondents reported using services like Uber and Airbnb when travelling abroad for business, 75% of organisations lack policies or procedures for how to use these services during international business travel.

In addition, more than half of the respondents didn’t know whether their organisation had considered the legality of sharing services in certain countries.

International law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills, contributed the legal opinions on using such services abroad, including whether the service itself was actually lawful in certain countries and jurisdictions.

Steve Bell, partner Herbert Smith Freehills, said: “Local law will struggle to keep pace with developments in social and economic services. Employers sending workers overseas should understand the laws in their destination country, the relative risk profile of sharing economy services compared with traditional services, and above all be guided by their duty of care to their workers. In all, this requires a sophisticated risk management approach.”

Travel security considerations were provided by security experts from International SOS and Control Risks who shared their views. Rob Walker of International SOS and Control Risks said:

“The use of share economy services may be appropriate in some locations but not in others. You need to consider a range of factors when evaluating the suitability of the services: a one-size-fits-all policy is unlikely to meet your organisation’s Duty of Care obligations to your travellers.”

Travellers should consider the following factors when determining whether the use of shared accommodation and transport services are appropriate when they are abroad.

  • Security standards. Are the security standards appropriate to the risks in the destination?
  • Emergency response. Does the property have alternative power or telecommunication systems?
  • Support services. Do you have access to multilingual staff or medical assistance?
  • Vetting of staff. Are there formal background checks for the driver and/ or host?
  • Is the provider considered reputable in the region?

Travel Sharing Economy survey is an International SOS survey conducted among 707 people globally, mainly executives managing business travel or travellers themselves. Research was conducted online in the period 26 April – 20 May, 2016.

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