Although the concept is quite old, a rebrand and modern technology have added a new term to our dictionary: sharing economy. But what is a shared economy? How does it work? And how has it affected the travel world? Sharing is the word that is the new direction of travel and to understand it is to understand the future of travel.
One of the most common questions is what is a shared economy? To understand what a shared economy is, we need to start by understanding that there is nothing ‘sharing’ about the shared economy; it is purely capitalistic. Not that this is bad, as most of the most advanced technology, freest governments, and other additional benefits have been tied to capitalism and the shared economy is one of them. A truer term for items in the shared economy would be peer to peer capitalism. What the shared economy is is a fusion of technology that makes it easy to find the local sole-proprietor who can then deliver the goods or services desired, often at a lower price than a larger corporation could.
In action, this looks like this: Uber helps make links between individuals who need a ride and individuals willing to give them a ride. All it is is linking together two individuals who can then conduct commerce between themselves while giving the overarching company a cut of the transaction. What does this mean? This means lower fares than a traditional taxi or other bigger driving services and a system that allows you to be picked up or dropped off by individuals near you so your wait time is often less as well.
This saving of time and cost is what is causing huge growth in companies like Airbnb and Uber. Many businesses are rewriting their policies to reflect this new travel trend to allow for individuals in the company to use services in the shared economy. Since huge amounts of corporate dollars are spent on transportation and rooms every year, businesses adjusting their policies to allow for access to their employees to these kinds of travel services could end up netting huge savings yearly on their travelers’ expenses.
Sharing in Social Media:
The word share and the way it is changing the world for travel agencies and travelers alike is profound. It extends not just to shared economies but also sharing in social media as well. How does sharing in social media affect travel? One of the largest impacts has been on the way people decide to take trips. In olden days, after a trip, one might bring out the slide projector and inflict countless blurry images on hapless friends and family. Now, however, with Facebook, Trip Advisor, and other sites, you can do the slideshow before thousands who can scan the images and find their favorites, or you can use these sites to find out about places your friends went, too. Popular posts, comments, and pictures are more likely to be in your news feed. This means that instead of wading through hundreds of marginally interesting pictures, you see the peaks of any vacation and can hear what your friends or family said about it.
In addition, the next generation of travel agents is likely to be other travelers. With today’s ability to share thoughts and ideas as well as experiences from our own trips, it should come as no surprise that people who are traveling want to know what other people said about these locations or destinations and not just what the local tourist board says. This is similar to the shared economy in that it is peer to peer traveler information. Sharing in social media thus can have a huge effect on travelers and travel agencies. If you are planning a trip with travel agents but suddenly you start to notice bad reviews of your destination by many other people who went there, it will likely give you a reason for pause.
However, do not think that travel agents have gone away; travel agents and travel agencies are in fact alive and well. They, too, are making use of sharing in social media and the sharing economy. Travel agents are a filter through which the good and the bad come and everything is filtered to give you the individualized trip you desire. They will do extensive research on the kind of trip or experience you are looking for and they do research through social media to help make educated choices that ensure you get a trip perfectly crafted for you. Unlike other internet tools or social media, an agent can do what no computer can – get to know you, learn your preferences, and find what you want from the travel experience.
For both leisure and business:
Travel agents are great resources even on business trips, or a combination of business and leisure. Going back to the idea that sharing is changing the industry, many travel agents can be reached through social media or texting. Maybe you found that you have an extra day at the end of a conference and need help. Between Trip Advisor, Facebook, and your travel agent, you will have huge volumes of resources available to you for staying connected and making great choices based not on what a tour group says but what others who went said. With groups like Airbnb and other members of the sharing economy scattered throughout the world, it doesn’t matter where you go, you will almost always find someone who will be able to pick you up and give you accommodations often for cheaper than most anywhere else you could find.
The peer to peer sharing economy is alive and well, whether linking passengers to available drivers, travelers to rooms, or even travelers to other trip goers. Sharing their thoughts, their cars, their homes, and their ideas and views are helping to improve the travel experience for everyone. Travel agents and travel agencies not only have nothing to fear from these trends but can make them work by utilizing the power of sharing to help create better trips, better understanding, and better traveling experiences for their clients.