Uber transforms ground transport

    Ride-sharing service Uber has rapidly grown to become the largest provider of ground transport for business travellers in the United States, forcing more organisations to review their travel policies.

    The latest data from travel and expense management software provider Certify shows that ride-sharing service Uber is having a significant impact on the corporate travel market in the United States, reaching 52% of the total category spend.

    The Q4 2016 milestone marks a rise of 4% from the previous quarter and the first time Uber has surpassed 50% of the total category.

    Ground transport market share

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    Source: Certify

    The popularity of Uber among business travellers also helped propel the company to the top spot for most expensed vendor overall, capturing 6% of all Certify receipts and expenses in 2016.

    Uber has become a mainstream provider

    In Jul-2016, when Uber claimed to have hit a milestone of 2 billion trips, it struck a deal with Concur Technologies Inc to integrate its technology within Concur’s travel and expense platform, making it easier for business travel clients to use the ride-hailing service.

    At the time, Uber accounted for around 7% of Concur’s average customer global ground travel expense.

    Concur reported close to 230% growth in Uber transactions in 2016 and the integration is expected to accelerate the uptake of Uber among Concur clients.

    Uber for Business targets the corporate market

    Just as Airbnb adapted its offering to cater for the needs of corporate travellers with its Airbnb for Business offering, Uber has recognised the potential of the corporate market with the launch of Uber for Business.

    Uber has a number of large corporate clients including Goldman Sachs, Accenture and Salesforce. The business platform now offers premium services, like accounting.

    According to the company, Uber for Business

    “provides businesses with affordable rides for employees, with a central dashboard that keeps track of Uber trips and fares”.

    Uber reports

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    Source: Uber

    The corporate offering allows employees to use a central payment account or request reimbursement for Uber trips related to business. They are able to tag trips with an expense code and notes.

    The solution also allows organisations to create customisable ride policies that specify when and where employees can ride.

    Importantly, Uber for Business includes customisable trip reports that include details needed to keep track of all trips taken using a company’s Uber for Business account.

    Uber is gaining acceptance – and legality – in Australia

    Uber’s arrival in Australia was marked by conflict with the established taxi industry and confusion over its legality in many states.

    • The ACT was the first among Australia’s states and territories to legalise Uber, doing so in Oct-2015.
    • New South Wales legalised ride-booking services in 2015.
    • Queensland aligned with the majority of states late last year by legalising ride-booking services like Uber, leaving the Northern Territory as the only black spot in Australia
    • Uber was effectively legalised in Victoria by a 2016 court case, but the State Parliament then counter-acted this by boosting the powers of the Taxi Services Commissioner.
    • The Tasmanian Government has tabled legislation that would allow Uber to operate legally in Tasmania.
    • Western Australia has announced a plan to deregulate the taxi industry and allow competitors like Uber to operate.
    • Uber remains banned in the Northern Territory as a result of the Government’s decision not to make changes to the law which would have allowed it to operate legally.

    Travel managers need to respond to changing traveller behaviour

    With ground transport costs rising and growing disenchantment with the taxi system, especially with high fares and card surcharges, travellers are turning to ride-sharing services like Uber.

    CAPA has seen evidence of growing adoption of Uber, but at the same, it is clear that most travel policies have not kept pace with traveller preferences and do not cover the use of this travel option.

    There is a notable trend toward consumerisation of traditional corporate travel, and leisure apps and services continue to make their way into business travel.

    As Certify notes:

    “advances in personal technologies and travel-based smartphone apps have made it easier for business travellers to choose the experiences and vendors they prefer. And the companies they work for are following suit with expanded travel policy guidelines to accommodate new services and payment methods.”

    For travel managers, services like Uber represent not only a savings opportunity, but also a chance to improve traveller convenience. With travellers already using Uber for leisure travel, enforcing compliance for corporate use is far easier than mandating an option they do not favour. So, by “going with the flow”, organisations can harness the existing trend towards the sharing economy, capitalising on the savings and convenience.