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Uber and Airbnb are complicating corporate expense reports

Your next corporate hotel room may not be anywhere near a corporate hotel.Your next corporate hotel room may not be anywhere near a corporate hotel.
Your next corporate hotel room may not be anywhere near a corporate hotel.Courtesy: Airbnb

If you read Fortune, you’ll know that companies like Uber and Airbnb are disrupting traditional industries like transportation and hospitality. What you may not know is that they’re also changing the way many of us book business trips—and, consequently, shifting priorities for companies that provide travel and expense reporting software.

Case in point: Concur (CNQR), one of the largest providers of such software with more than half of the Fortune 500 as customers, has seen its users’ Uber ridership increase fivefold in the course of a year. And the number of Airbnb transactions captured in expense reports filed through the company’s tools? Those have grown by a factor of 27.

Yes, that’s right. Twenty-seven.

“You’re seeing a very interesting trend here—business travelers are looking at this and saying, ‘Can I have a different experience?'” says Steve Singh, Concur’s chief executive. “Business travelers want diversity in their travel experience.”

Singh has been trying to take some of the pain out of expense reports for years. (The CEO says his goal is to make the pesky monthly task of filling out reports entirely unnecessary. A man can dream, can’t he?) Concur has worked to establish partnerships with a number of vendors to ensure that more and more expense report items automatically populate its software, rather than requiring users to manually categorize them or worse, scan physical receipts. (L’horreur.) The company has also taken a page from the consumerization-of-the-enterprise trend and accepted the fact that a growing number of people want to book trips or rooms directly with an airline or hotel, as they would for a personal trip, rather than through Concur’s clunky corporate portal.

On Tuesday, Concur announced that it would formally partner with Airbnb and Uber in a bid to remain relevant with business travelers. Users will be able to book Airbnb rooms or Uber vehicles directly through Concur’s TripLink service. Corporate customers’ Airbnb accounts will be linked to their personal accounts on that service, and Uber will allow automatic expensing of rides within its mobile application. (Airbnb also used the announcement as an opportunity to launch a special portal for business travelers.) The items will automatically populate Concur expense reports.

Ground transportation and accommodations are among the most popular categories of corporate travel spend (though not as popular as airfare and “entertainment”), so it’s little wonder that Concur feels pressure to move with its users: if corporate customers continue to book trips through other sites and services, cutting Concur out of the process, the company risks becoming irrelevant.

“The early adopters of this early trend are typically a younger demographic,” Singh says, adding that younger tech companies are also among the earliest adopters.

More than 30 such firms—including Salesforce (CRM), Eventbrite, and Evernote—have signed up for a recently-announced Airbnb service that lets them track their employees’ bookings on the rentals site, according to the rental company. (It’s not clear how many of those companies are also Concur customers.)

Though the traditional business travel industry is alive and well—Concur has forged partnerships with United, Marriott, Avis, Starbucks (pay for a latté with Starbucks’ mobile app or card, automatically expense it) and Starwood (view your corporate rate during the booking process)—the company is focused on where the industry is going next.

“Sometimes a Starwood Hotel is exactly what you want,” Singh says, “and sometimes you want something different.”