U.S. business travel will increase 4.6 percent in 2013 but fall 1.1 percent in trip volume, according to a new forecast from the Global Business Travel Association. Fewer trips, more money: Once again companies will be wringing everything they can out of the dollar in the coming year.
Business travelers, please remember this as the moment an idea on the Internet made your life twenty times better and nudged your company into the black. Here goes: Stop staying in hotels. Stay in people’s homes.
I know, we all love the hermetic anonymity of a 20th floor suite in some slick downtown tower. But it’s a flimsy love, I’d argue, and I’d do so as someone who’s slowly eliminating hotels from his travel diet. My new diet? Total strangers’ spare bedrooms. I’m talking about Airbnb, which is either old news to you or a wacky new idea.
Not much to say about the money part: Airbnb simply costs less of it. Companies could send their employees to steak dinners on each trip and still save gobs.
More interesting, I think, is what could be gained by giving employees vastly more unique, personal and interactive experiences on their trips. Imagine rolling up to your meeting or conference with the happy fever of someone who’s gotten to know a neat new neighborhood, caught a glimpse of how the locals actually live – and generally did without the mind-numb of having watched Entourage in yet another generic hotel bed the night before.
Companies pay good money to keep their workers fresh and bushy-tailed, down to the coffee in the office kitchen. The built-in cross-pollination here would be a double mental espresso for the understimulated traveler. Companies hire expensive consultants to fight silo-ization of thought; what are business hotels if not extra-large silos of people having extremely similar experiences? And so on.
Last year I went to Reykjavik for work, and upon seeing those suits taxiing off to the silent, stultifying hotel quarter, I promptly cancelled my own hotel reservation. I got online and within five minutes had a stylish, immaculate bedroom in the happening 101 district for a fraction of the price. My hosts gave me my space – but also groovy insider tips on where to go and what to do. Which led to meeting interesting people and sealing a business deal the next day. Okay I made the last part up, but it totally could’ve happened.
Chris Colin is the award-winning author of “Blindsight,” published by the Atavist and named one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2011. See his work at www.chriscolin.com.