Peter Dauterman appreciates a fine hotel.
But on recent business trips, Dauterman, a partner with Pegasus Funds in Dallas has bypassed a hotel room and opted for a private residence instead.
“There’s not a good equivalent in the hotel world . . . You’re always compromising,” says Dauterman, who in December met with a client in the privacy of an apartment less than two blocks from Buckingham Palace. “If you really want to stay first class, and you really want some space to stretch out, I haven’t seen anything that would compare to this.”
Vacation rental services that allow travelers to stay in private residences rather than hotels are vigorously going after business travelers, who may want the comfort and conveniences of home, or to tack on a little vacation time when the meetings and presentations are done.
“When you stay in the comfort of a home, you only have to do it once to realize you don’t want to be in a hotel again,” says Cathy Ross, chief operating officer of Exclusive Resorts, which owns luxury vacation homes around the world including the London apartment where Dauterman stayed last year. “You can sit on the couch with your laptop on your lap, and you have a refrigerator stocked with healthy food. More and more people are trying it and as they try it, it’s hard to go back.”
Many corporate trekkers are mixing a little leisure time into their business trips.
A PhoCusWright study found that in 2011, the most recent year examined, 47% of business travelers said they tacked on vacation time to at least one of their work trips each year, and among those who worked for themselves, 53% combined a work trip with leisure time.
That desire to mix business with leisure can make a vacation rental home particularly appealing, says Lex Bayer, head of business development for Airbnb, the vacation rental service that allows people to stay in, and list, private homes.
“One of the primary reasons they’re using Airbnb is they’re combining . . . a little bit of personal with their business trips,” Bayer says.
In July, Airbnb announced a new business travel portal that allows employees at dozens of businesses to book its properties for work-related trips. The portal streamlines Airbnb’s 800,000 offerings around the world to those that are most suitable for a corporate trek, a centrally located home with WiFi for instance vs. a house boat, Bayer says.
The company decided to create the offering after several businesses said some employees who had used Airbnb to find spots to stay on vacation, were interested in using the service when going on the road for work.
With so many properties to choose from, it’s not difficult to find one near to where you need to be, Bayer says.
Airbnb’s portal is used by roughly 50 companies, he says, and some businesses have rented the service’s properties to house several employees traveling together. The homes and apartments can also be a pleasant alternative space for meetings.
“Rather than get in a conference room,” Bayer says, “you can meet in an amazing place with a view of Lake Tahoe. It just changes the mood and energy of people who are getting to have an experience very different from the everyday workplace.”
Dauterman frequently stays in residences owned by Exclusive Resorts, a luxury vacation home collection.
In December, he stayed at one of its four Buckingham Gate apartments in London, where he met with a client in preparation for taking a company public.
“When you’re taking the financial condition of a company … you’ve got to keep that private,” Dauterman said. “To be able to have the meeting there in the living room, with the kitchen around the corner and very finely furnished, you can’t do that in a hotel.”
While Executive Resorts’ membership programs can cost as much as $170,000 for a one-time initiation fee, Exclusive touts its Gateway travel card as a lower-priced option for businesses. That program doesn’t require membership, and allows 21 days of travel that can be used over three years for $32,550.
“What they pay for that two bedroom in New York is going to be less than renting multiple hotel rooms in New York City,” says Ross, who noted that the collection has residences inNew York, Miami, San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, Rome, Las Vegas and London.
Still, Airbnb’s Bayer says that a private rental residence may not be ideal for every person traveling on business.
“We don’t think this is particularly well suited to the business road warrior, the person who travels most of the year, going in and out of meetings,” he says, adding that such travelers are often in a city for a very short time, and may prefer the predictability of staying in the same hotel, trip after trip. “People booking Airbnb tend to go for longer stays . . . so some of these additional amenities, like a kitchen and a place to do laundry, is more valuable.”
Matt Franklin, a member of USA TODAY’s panel of road warriors, stays in a city for up to two weeks at a time in his job as a traveling information technology specialist for trade shows and conferences. So he says he can see the advantages of staying in a private residence instead of a hotel.
“It would be spacious,” says Franklin, who lives in Arlington, Texas, “and I could cook for myself.”
But James Bowman, another road warrior panelist, thinks a hotel room works just fine.
“It would not make sense for me,” says Bowman, who works in manufacturing and lives in Houston. “I am never in the same hotel for more than four days, and only there to sleep anyway.”
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