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Uber more popular than taxis for biz travelers

There's more evidence that so-called ride-hailing services are gaining ground against traditional taxis.

Thirty-one percent of business travelers now use Uber for ground transportation, topping taxi trips every month since April, a study said Thursday.

Just 22 percent of business trippers use taxis when hailing rides, down from 37 percent in the first quarter of 2014, according to a Certify, which makes online travel and expense management software. Certify surveyed quarterly data from 8.5 million receipts and submitted expense reports from July to September 2015, to help set benchmark prices for corporate clients that use its service to process expense reports.

The soaring influence of Uber among corporate clients also highlighted how sharing economy start-ups as a whole are gaining dominance, including the likes of Airbnb, said Certify CEO Bob Neveu. Employees of small to midsized firms in IT, financial services, food, medical devices and retail are driving much of the growth in the sharing economy, the report said.

"I think the biggest piece with ride sharing is class of service and convenience," Neveu said. "A bottle of water, a pack of gum are pretty standard for services like Uber, really caring for the customer is a big deal for business customers. If you can use a corporate credit card, it's infinitely easier than cash. And small to mid-size firms don't have the same preferred vendor lists, so they adopt new technologies faster."

Uber had just 8 percent of the business traveler market 18 months ago, Certify said. Now it is topped only by car rentals, used by 44 percent of travelers.

With fellow car-hailing service Lyft taking a 3 percent market share of business travelers nationwide, ride-hailing has already eclipsed rental cars in cities like Boston and San Francisco, the Certify study said. And though hotels are still more commonly expensed than Airbnb rentals, corporate travelers stay twice as long in Airbnb accommodations on average, four nights to two.

Part of the reason? Sharing services tend to be cheaper and receive better ratings from users, the study found. The average taxi ride on expense reports cost $35.28, compared to $27.61 for Uber and $23.94 for Lyft. Uber and Lyft rides received an average rating of 4.69 and 4.49 out of 5, respectively, compared to 3.95 for rental car companies and 3.70 for taxis.

Ride-hailing services like Uber are not without controversy, facing significant regulatory hurdles in markets like New York City and Germany. But equipped with mobile apps, they follow on a larger trend of digital buying as more millennials start traveling for work.

Travelers under age 34 are most likely to be interested in using a carpooling or home-sharing service, and most likely to use mobile to access travel sites, according to eMarketer's Business Travel survey. Millennials will account for 50 percent of business spending by 2020, a Boston Consulting Group study from 2014 estimated.