What can be said about the “new normal” sharing economy in the MICE industry that already hasn’t? Not so long ago, companies like Uber and Airbnb were the new kids on the block, but those days are gone. The sharing economy along with innovation in general has become ubiquitous and longer established rivals like hotels and taxis have had to step aside or up the ante by reducing prices.
Even as recently as three years ago we kept hearing that Airbnb would never penetrate the MICE industry (though some of us were a bit more skeptical) but it is slowly seeping into our life. Last IBTM in Barcelona, we met an extraordinary amount of members and clients who had opted out of Barcelona’s oft-overpriced accommodations and opted in for trendy modernist flats in the heart of the city. And it’s no longer just for the “relief value” due to competitive prices; in our era of mindfulness and healthy lifestyles, some travellers truly do prefer a “home away from home” which affords them more flexibility than even the poshest of hotels. There is even talk over at Airbnb headquarters of starting a meeting planner section in the near future.
Same goes for Uber, once valued mostly for its competitive prices, now is being preferred to traditional cabs for ease of payment (who has time to exchange currency these days?) and choice. Need a helicopter? Uber Chopper has one.
Sounds great, right? But as the newcomers grow, they start to feel less like a sharing economy and more like an access economy, with all the perils attached. Uber, (worth around $50B as of mid-2015) keeps up to 30% commission from its drivers’ gross revenue, leaving many drivers making less than minimum wage. And since 2015, Airbnb has systematically hidden the price for their listings in the hosts’ currency, and in the exchange rate, Airbnb adds an additional 3%. This is called “Dynamic Currency Conversion” or DCC.
What does this mean for the near future? Will the word get out? Will there ever truly be a “sharing economy” that is fair? Or at least a bit closer to the ideal? We’d love to hear your thoughts!