It seems that not a day goes by without the sharing economy, with services such as Uber, Airbnb and Lyft, featuring in the travel news. This phenomenon is, without question, beginning to disrupt the business travel world, after triggering a revolution in leisure travel.
In our recent sharing economy survey, which a number of TMC figures participated in, half of respondents had encountered usage of sharing economy providers by their clients’ travellers.
Of course, the emergence of the sharing economy as a viable option for corporate travel poses a change in the status quo for TMCs. So how should TMCs react to these peer-to-peer services?
A number of respondents had some interesting perspectives.
1. Monitor the situation
Some respondents expressed the need for TMCs to simply monitor the sharing economy and its effect on business travel. This response was typically from TMCs that were yet to receive requests from clients about sharing economy providers. The feeling was that the full impact is not yet known, but TMCs need to keep an eye on developments.
2. Advise your clients
Multiple respondents believed that TMCs should provide information to travellers and travel buyers about the pros and cons of using sharing economy services. On the surface, services such as Uber may appear extremely attractive to businesses and business travellers managing their own budgets, due to potential cost savings or other perceived benefits. However, there are risks associated with their usage, particularly surrounding duty of care and management. TMCs should highlight these issues to clients, ensuring they are informed about the weaknesses of the sharing economy for responsible businesses.
3. Embrace the opportunity
One respondent said: “We, as TMCs need to embrace it, ignoring it will not make it go away.” And this viewed was echoed by several participants who believed that TMCs need to find ways to incorporate sharing economy services into their own offerings to clients.
This may involve helping clients to develop a formalised booking process for, say, Airbnb, or finding technological solutions to provide methods for booking, accounting and reporting of sharing economy services. On the whole, many participants felt TMCs need to prepare to embrace this phenomenon.
Our survey confirmed the need for TMCs to take the sharing economy seriously. Its disruptive potential in the corporate travel industry is not yet understood, including its impact on TMCs.
To access more findings from our survey, which aimed to promote collaborative understanding and awareness of the impact of the sharing economy on TMCs and the travel industry, download our report.