Odds are you’re familiar with Uber, the transportation technology company that has massively disrupted the taxi and car service industry, across the U.S. and internationally. If you haven’t already downloaded the Uber mobile app to your smartphone and used it to order Uber rides, then you’ve likely at least heard of Uber. The app was released just 5 years ago, in June of 2010, and its service is now available in 300+ cities. Uber is growing every day, signing up more users, adding more drivers, expanding into new markets. The company is now valued at approximately $50 billion, making it the most valuable startup in the world.
If you don’t use Uber yourself, you undoubtedly know people who do. How do we know this? Because business travelers love Uber. Uber launched a dedicated platform for business travel in July of 2014 and it has been wildly successful. According to a recent report from the expense management system provider Certify, business expenses for Uber rides now exceed expenses for traditional taxis. Certify analyzed millions of receipts and here’s what they found: From the second quarter of last year to the second quarter of this year, Uber’s percentage of ground transportation receipts grew from 8% to 31%. The market share of taxis declined from 37% to 24%. Rental car use also decreased from 55% to 45%. Yes, you read that right – 8% to 31% market share in just one year!
Max Crowley, who leads Uber for Business, says the company launched the dedicated business platform in response to a lot of inbound interest from companies whose employees had taken it upon themselves to book Uber rides. Uber had become one of their fastest-growing unmanaged expenses and they wanted a framework for managing it. Now they have it. With Uber for Business, employees can bill their rides to their companies. The companies no longer have to process receipts from employees for reimbursement, they get trip information directly from Uber and can adjust various controls on their accounts. According to Crowley, 1,000 new business accounts come in every week. So if your company isn’t already using Uber, it might be very soon.
Clearly, Uber is changing the landscape of business travel. This is particularly relevant to the Convention Nation community because Uber is making inroads with the convention industry. For example:
- At the 2014 Massachusetts Conference for Women, Uber offered a promotional $20 discount for conference participants who downloaded the app.
- At the 2014 International Council of Shopping Centers’ New York National Conference, attendees who were new to Uber received a $30 discount and attendees who had already downloaded the app could use a promo code to save 10% on their rides during the conference.
- At the Association of Writers & Writing Programs 2014 Conference, first-time Uber users also received a $30 promotional discount.
- Attendees at the National Automobile Dealers Association 2015 Convention & Expo received a promo code for a free first ride up to $20.
- The same deal was recently available at San Diego Comic-Con 2015.
- At the upcoming 2015 International Audio Engineering Society Convention at the Javits Center in NYC, new Uber users can access a free ride up to $25 and those who already use Uber get a $20 coupon if they use Uber’s carpool option.
The list goes on and on. A wide range of annual conventions have highlighted Uber promotional offers for attendees. We expect Uber will continue to utilize the convention industry to access more users through similar promotions. It’s a smart business strategy. If you regularly attend conventions, you’ve probably dealt with the typical headaches of big-city transit – long taxi lines, a lack of shuttle buses, the awkwardness of tipping at the end of a ride, etc. The Uber app, with its tap-your-phone-and-your-driver-is-on-the-way convenience, is designed to eliminate those common frustrations.
If you’re a conference attendee, have you used Uber for your ground transportation? If you’re a conference planner, has your company or organization partnered with Uber? Are you considering doing so in the future?
Please share any thoughts or experiences with Uber and convention travel in general with us. We’d love to hear what you think!