Business travel in the age of the sharing economy

International SOS has revealed the results of a survey that show that businesses are unprepared when it comes to sending employees abroad, particularly in light of the increased use of the ‘sharing economy’.

The survey also showed that one in five travellers now use services like Uber and Airbnb when travelling internationally for business and that 40% of travellers reported they do not know whether their organisation considers such services to be ‘safe’.

Worryingly, it also found that 75% of organisations lack policies or procedures for using these services during international business travel.

In response to the growing global use of these sharing economy services, and the 75% figures indicates that 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, said, “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 the 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.

Leading international law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills, contributed the legal considerations of 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.

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?
  • Reputation. Is the provider considered reputable in the region?


Additional considerations, including travel safety checklists and policy recommendations, are available in the full report available here.

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.

At FEM's London Chapter Meeting in October, we discussed the issue of managing business travel with speakers from KPMG and FIS. To read a report of the session, see Putting business travel on the right track at our London Chapter Meeting.


We will also be exploring the topic further in a number of panel and roundtable sessions at our EMEA Summit on 10th-11th November


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