“As long as your employees are at work, you’re responsible for their welfare, no matter what”. Nasar Farooq, Health & Safety Manager, Croner Consulting.
When Airbnb launched their business travel portal last year, Google and Salesforce were among the reported 1,000 companies to jump on the bandwagon and sign up to the programme within the first month. With such colossal corporations jumping on board, many Travel Managers, who had perhaps previously approached the sharing economy giant with some trepidation, were suddenly more engaged by the idea of their employees staying in Airbnb’s Business Travel Ready accommodation. But, if employee welfare is your number one responsibility, what assurances does an Airbnb Business Travel Ready property provide?
I’ve stayed in non-Business Travel Ready Airbnb listings on a number of occasions and have always enjoyed the experience. Jeff’s place in LA was in a fantastic location, just off Melrose Place, and his local knowledge meant he was able to offer some great suggestions for things to do while me and my girlfriend were in town. We were a bit surprised to bump into another person when we went to make breakfast on our first morning, but it turned out he was Jeff’s brother who was just as friendly and helpful. Was it the perfect place to stay for two nights while waiting for a flight back to the UK? Yes. Would a Travel Manager want their employee staying there? Absolutely not.
So, what exactly differentiates a Business Travel Ready property from a regular Airbnb listing? Well, it has to be an entire home, have no pets, no smoking and have wireless internet, a laptop friendly workspace, 24 hour check-in, a smoke detector, a carbon monoxide detector, essentials (toilet paper, clean towels and fresh linen), an iron, hangers, hair dryer and shampoo. Once a host has confirmed they’re able to provide the above, they need just three reviews, for 60% of these reviews to be 5-stars, and their property receives a briefcase badge which signifies it’s Business Travel Ready.
Travel Managers should feel confident sending their employees to properties with the features listed above, but it seems Airbnb themselves aren’t quite so sure. In the ‘Business Travel Ready Program’ terms and conditions it states in the second paragraph: “Airbnb does not endorse any Business Travel Ready Listing or Host, nor guarantee or control the quality, safety, suitability, or conduct of any host, regardless of whether or not a Host has a Listing with a BTR badge.” If Airbnb isn’t comfortable with accepting responsibility for ensuring the quality and safety of a property, then how can a Travel Manager feel assured when sending their employees to stay in its properties?
This sentiment is echoed by a recent report carried out by CWT, on behalf of Airbnb, which stated “Any traveller requiring a sense of service or other assurances licensed providers offer such as video cameras, fire detection systems, deadbolt locks, safes and more, may not be a good match for Airbnb.”
In contrast to the arrangement between Airbnb and its hosts, the serviced apartment industry has several layers of health and safety assurances. The Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP) started its Quality Assessment scheme in 2014 to help standardise the industry. The scheme includes core requirements which are as follows:
- A fire risk assessment will be available for each property
- Information will be available on accessibility and mobility restrictions
- Each operator will have public & employers liability Insurance
- Where applicable there will be a landlords gas safe certificate
- All portable electrical appliances will be inspected regularly
- Fire blankets will be provided and wall mounted in the kitchen area
- Carbon Monoxide testing equipment will be available if gas is used in the property
- Lifts will be fully serviced with appropriate certification available
- All chemicals will be stored and controlled in accordance with statutory requirements
- The operator will have a robust health and safety policy
This is a far more comprehensive set of standards than those defined by Airbnb and any properties which have achieved accreditation provide Travel Managers with peace of mind that their employees are staying in safe and suitable accommodation. What’s more, the Quality Assessment scheme is also carried out in person at the property as opposed to the Business Travel Ready programme which is based upon properties qualifying via an automated system.
Will I continue to use Airbnb for leisure stays? Yes. I’m happy to accept some risk in return for accommodation that provides some pleasant surprises at an affordable rate. However, for business travel, I’ll continue to make use of serviced apartments, not just for my peace of mind, but for my Travel Manager’s too.