Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to be part of a panel in order to discuss one of the biggest trends of the past few years; The Sharing Economy (SE), and it’s impact on managed corporate travel. The discussion was set up in partnership between UCB and Nina & Pinto (a consulting organisation who are experts in corporate travel), and included exclusive travel managers from corporate industries, two lovely tourism lecturers, postgraduate tourism students, and little old me.
If your not entirely sure what the sharing economy is, I’m positive you would have at least heard of companies within it, and more than likely used their services. Uber and Air B&B are probably the two most popular names in the SE at the moment but there are lots of others around the world too. A booming rise in apps, discount codes and virtual payments, have enabled sharing economy providers to become a necessity for people who are constantly on the move, especially those who need fast and efficient services available at a touch of a finger. Not everyone who taps into sharing economy is interested in making an income from it (like Couchsurfing), but this discussion was primarily focused on Uber and Air B&B and how they impact corporate travel.
Despite not knowing a whole lot about the SE prior to being part of the debate, I was still excited to be asked. And I suppose my eccentric imagination thought being on a panel would be like a Britain’s Got Talent sort of thing where I’d be pulling out the Simon Cowell in me with the spotlight on Uber and Air B&B… Although it wasn’t quite BGT, those few hours were extremely insightful and a great session to learn from! Walking into the room I was a little nervous about what to expect, especially because I’d never been involved in something like this before, but the tea and delicious pastries were certainly a calming influence!
Everybody spent a couple of minutes introducing themselves, and it was quickly established how everyone in the room enjoyed ‘delicious moments of joy’, after listening to travel manager Ike’s profile from Mondelēz International, (a worldwide corporate confectionery company with a mission to provide people with these delicious moments… Oreo’s definitely supply me with them anyway!)
Once the intros had been done, the next couple of hours focused on the main debate, which was kinda like playing table tennis – a quick back and forth discussion – regarding the opportunities and risks of the sharing economy. Including how it could affect costs, threats and the future for corporate firms and travellers. I was absorbed into the debate and completely amazed by the amount of information shared. While I didn’t really pipe in much to the discussion, it was intriguing listening to postgraduate students and the travel managers’ insight into the subject. I did agree with a lot of the points made, especially from a young traveller perspective and had a few thoughts of my own about the SE based on the examples and personal stories shared by the board.
Today’s generation are mostly influenced by the latest technology, fashion, gadgets, apps and trends. Things are constantly changing all around us everyday. Like taxi services. If I need a ride fast I’d much rather use Uber since I can request a ride instantly using the app, see how close a car is to me and check out the drivers details including how other users have rated them. Most importantly for me, Uber is purse friendly! Which is awesome, because thanks to virtual payments it means no more rummaging around for those pennies that have fallen to the bottom of my bag when paying for regular taxi’s (yayy)! I’ve used Uber quite a lot of times now and so far I’ve had no reason to complain.
I can’t say the same for Air B&B purely because I’ve not had the pleasure of staying in one yet, but I have considered it a choice when searching online for accommodation. As a young traveller the only thing that would potentially stop me from booking an Air B&B is the quieter social experience. Although, I suppose in one sense it could be amazing, especially if I needed a peaceful environment to work or blog. But usually when searching for somewhere to stay, I lean more towards a hostel. Not just ‘cos its great for a budget conscious traveller, but the social experiences are amazing for meeting people all over the world! Having said that, If I worked in corporate travel, I’d be more inclined to book through Air B&B for the quieter space and homely environment. Especially since the platform lists thousands of properties with facilities relevant for business travellers and includes absolutely no sharing with anyone! Besides I’m sure a lot of people tend to feel more relaxed at a “home domain” with comfy facilities. And of course this would be far better than waking up a hostel room full of people up a 5am when you’ve gotta get pretty for a meeting…
What I learned from the debate though, is that it’s essential to take both positive and negative points into consideration when looking at SE providers. Corporate firms depend on reliability, safety and security for their employees so must consider risk factors. Looking at it from a negative side from my own views, while an Air B&B property could have the homely benefits and facilities, I’d imagine having the feeling like your invading someone else’s living space, even though it’s been booked for you to use. On a similar note, there isn’t the added bonus of security or staff that you get at a hotel incase things go wrong. As awful as it is to imagine there is a slight likelihood of being burgled that should be considered as well. Knowing my clumsy self I’d be to afraid to use the kitchen too, incase I’d accidentally set something on fire or break something valuable, and that wouldn’t be cool.
Our generation is on top of all the latest trends, and technology will get more and more advanced into the future. Not only that, but the people who are already studying for their degrees, graduating and even those who are at school considering travel and tourism; these guys are tourism’s future leaders! We know what we want, what techno to use and therefore corporate travel must start implicating these into their strategies now rather than later, to prepare for future leaders in order to take companies further. Like I mentioned, I’m not an expert on the SE and I’m basing my opinions based on what I took from the discussion and the information I’ve read online. Personally I think this trend will continue to grow more, especially as social media and technology expands, so its crucial for these firms to start exploring the sharing economy now.
Most of all we are people, and people like to share! And sharing’s caring, right?
Big thanks to the awesome tourism lecturers who let me be part of this session, I totally think its a fascinating topic for tourism enthusiasts interested in the corporate management side. Hope I haven’t rambled your head off too much and as always thanks for taking time to read my blog!