The lodging platform Airbnb has been vying for a share of the trillion-dollar global business travel market since 2014, when it first launched “Airbnb for Business” and began advertising houses and apartments with desks, Wi-Fi, and other essential amenities to users traveling for work. Since then, the service has been rebranded as “Airbnb for Work,” and on Monday, the company announced that it was growing exponentially, with almost 700,000 companies having employees sign up and book travel through Airbnb. That’s up from 250,000 as of April 2017. Business travel bookings tripled from 2015 to 2016, then tripled again from 2016 to 2017, Airbnb boasted.
In its blog post announcing these new user numbers, Airbnb also highlighted some fun facts about how people are using Airbnb for Work:
- Bleisure (combining business trips with leisure stays) – we continue to see people tack on weekend days to explore the cities they’re traveling to. More than 30% of Airbnb for Work bookings in the past year include at least one weekend night.
- “Traditional” business trips – a year ago, the average trip on Airbnb was six nights or more; today, the average stay with Airbnb for Work is about five days, and the fastest growing segment of trips is three nights or less. Business travelers are increasingly using Airbnb for shorter trips, which they may have booked hotels for in the past.
- Collaboration – nearly 60 percent of Airbnb for Work trips in the last year had more than one guest. Of the 60 percent of Airbnb for Work trips with more than one guest, nearly 40 percent of had three or more guests. Teams are traveling together to bond and collaborate.
- Mobility – we’re seeing extended stays and relocations being booked on Airbnb for many different reasons and lengths of time — ranging from long business trips or training sessions that require several weeks away, to on-site projects that can last several months to a year. In the past year alone, we’ve seen stays with Airbnb for Work 14 days or longer grow nearly 3X.
In what looks like the Trump administration’s latest effort to tighten the US border by subjecting entrants to greater scrutiny, the State Department announced in the Federal Register on Friday that it was proposing to require that people seeking both immigrant and non-immigrant visas provide consular officials with additional information, including their social media accounts from the past five years, Ana Campoy reports at Quartz:
“This is an indirect way that the Trump administration is trying to limit immigration to the US that does not require for them to go to Congress,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell University, of the proposed rules.
The US had already been requesting social-media information from people suspected to represent a national security threat. That policy targeted a sliver of travelers to the US—about 65,000. The new measures would cover nearly 15 million people. Along with the handles, the State Department is also asking for a five-year history of email addresses, telephone numbers, and international trips.
The proposals must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget after a 60-day public comment period, so these new requirements will not come into effect until this summer at the earliest, but if they do, Campoy surmises, it may make some people think twice about traveling to the US. The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement condemning the proposals as “ineffective and deeply problematic”:
The Trump administration’s controversial travel ban, which indefinitely bars most travelers and immigrants from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States, can be implemented in its current form while pending legal challenges to it are resolved, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday. According to the Washington Post, “in an unsigned opinion Monday that did not disclose the court’s reasoning, the justices lifted the injunctions” against the ban put in place by two federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland:
The justices said they expected the federal judges reviewing challenges to the order — based on what challengers say are Trump’s animus toward Muslims and lack of authority under immigration laws — to handle the cases with “appropriate dispatch.”’ … The orders from the two district judges will be reviewed this week. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is set to consider the Hawaii case Wednesday, and the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond will consider the Maryland judge’s decision Friday.
Monday’s ruling does not mean the ban will survive its ongoing court battles, but it does suggest that if the federal judges do attempt to knock it down, the administration will petition the Supreme Court for a reversal of their rulings and may win that case.
Back in March, US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it was suspending “premium processing” of H-1B visas, which allows applicants to have their visa applications processed within 15 days as opposed to several months for an additional fee, for up to six months starting April 1. At the time, USCIS said it was doing so to address a backlog in applications, but some observers suspected it was an opening move in a broader crackdown on the skilled worker visa program, of which President Donald Trump has been highly critical.
Fears that this change heralded a permanent slowdown in the H1-B program may have been unwarranted, however. On Friday, USCIS announced that premium processing would resume “as workloads permit,” SHRM’s Roy Maurer reports:
The agency also said that it will resume premium processing for H-1B petitions filed for medical doctors under the Conrad 30 Waiver program beginning June 26. The Conrad 30 program allows certain medical doctors to stay in the United States on temporary visas after completing their medical training to work in rural and urban areas that have a shortage of physicians.
At the same time, Maurer adds, wait times may increase for foreign business travelers coming to the US, due to an executive order Trump signed last week with little fanfare:
Shortly after taking office in January, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for 90 days and also freezing the admission of all refugees for 120 days, in what some interpret as an attempt to partly fulfill his campaign pledge of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” The order caused chaos at airports and was immediately subjected to numerous legal challenges, leading Trump to withdraw the order and replace it with a slightly less restrictive version in March, targeting only six countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen), and removing an indefinite ban on the admission of Syrian refugees, among other changes.
That ban, too, was quickly challenged in court, and two federal judges issued temporary restraining orders blocking it from coming into effect. The Fourth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal subsequently upheld those injunctions, at which point the Trump Administration said it would seek a ruling on the travel ban from the Supreme Court. On Monday, the last day of its session, the high court announced that it would hear arguments in October in the cases brought against the ban in federal courts in Hawaii and Maryland, NPR reports. In the meantime, the court lifted the injunctions against the ban, but with a key caveat:
The justices removed the lower courts’ injunctions against the ban “with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” narrowing the scope of two injunctions that had put the ban in limbo. … The travel ban will remain on hold for plaintiffs who challenged the executive order and for anyone who is “similarly situated,” the justices say — in other words, foreign nationals who have relatives in the U.S., or who plan to attend school or work here.
Refugees will face similar criteria, with anyone lacking connections in the U.S. denied entry. In its order, the court stated, “the balance tips in favor of the Government’s compelling need to provide for the Nation’s security.”
According to a presidential memorandum issued earlier this month, the ban is set to go into effect 72 hours after the injunctions against it were lifted, meaning it will be in force as early as Thursday, unless the administration chooses for some reason to delay it further.
In March, many international business travelers were taken by surprise when the US and UK abruptly issued bans on carry-on laptops and other large electronic devices on inbound flights from a number of airports in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey, citing intelligence that terrorists may attempt to target US-bound airplanes on these routes by “smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.” As long as the bans are in place, such items cannot be carried onto these flights and must be checked instead. On Thursday, Politico reported that US airlines were bracing for the Department of Homeland Security to expand the ban to flights from Europe and other parts of the world, though any such expansion is not expected to be implemented until President Donald Trump returns from an overseas trip this weekend.
An expanded ban would have obvious consequences for business travelers, who would no longer be able to get any work done on these long-haul international flights, but global security consultant Luke Bencie warns at the Harvard Business Review that organizations whose employees travel across the oceans on business have another reason to be concerned—namely, that checking a laptop at an airport could put the device, and any sensitive data it may contain, at risk:
In today’s globalized business environment, the craft of spying has never been more lucrative. For intelligence collectors, the idea of forcing travelers to become separated from their large electronics is like winning the lottery.
Airbnb rolled out a new search tool on Monday to cater to the lucrative market of business travelers. Bloomberg’s Olivia Zaleski reports:
The feature will allow professionals to filter homes and apartments that Airbnb has deemed Business Travel Ready. To qualify for a BTR listing, as the company calls it, the dwelling must have a desk, Wi-Fi, self-check-in through a doorman or digital lock and various amenities you’d expect at a hotel, like free shampoo, a hairdryer and iron.
According to Airbnb, 90 percent of its customers are vacationers. … But Airbnb sees expense accounts as a big opportunity. U.S. business travel spending is expected to reach $296 billion by the end of this year and climb 5.2 percent next year, according to the Global Business Travel Association, a trade group. There were 250 companies signed up with Airbnb to book and manage business travel in 2015.
Airbnb’s main challenge is providing the level of consistency business travelers expect and rely on, AmTrav Corporate Travel president Craig Fichtelberg noted at Business Travel News last month, which may be why ridesharing services like Uber have had more success in the expense account market than Airbnb’s apartment-sharing model: