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How the sharing economy is transforming travel

Graham Kingsmill, VP EMEA sales and account management at Egencia tells BBT how the sharing economy is changing the travel landscape

The sharing economy is everywhere – that’s no big news. But it’s particularly vibrant within the travel industry. Need to borrow a home? Go to Homeaway. Want to hire a jet? Visit Jettly. Aiming to rent a car? Use getaround, and the latest – looking to exchange currency? Use Weswap.

This trend is becoming ever more established in other sectors – food and beverage (Deliveroo), education (Itutorgroup) amongst many others – and businesses are realising the value of the sharing economy model. Here are some examples of how enterprises in the travel industry are implementing it, prompting business leaders to rethink how they do business.  

1 Working alongside providers
One way for companies to use the sharing economy model is by linking to other sharing economy providers. This helps ensure that customers can have the best options available at their fingertips. A company that does this well is Citymapper.

If you’re a London resident, Citymapper will surely be a platform that you know well and use often. In London, the app now links to sharing economy providers such as Gett, letting you know how much your journey will be if you take a ride. In the US, the app links to Lyft, another ridesharing service. Similarly, Google Maps links to a variety of sharing economy providers in London including Gett and mytaxi. Outside of the UK, it also links to 99Taxis in Brazil and Ola Cabs in India, offering price comparisons between ride-sharers so that customers can make the choice most suited to their needs.

But it’s not just platforms linking to sharing economy services – companies are integrating the model into their travel policies, allowing their employees to book through sharing economy lodging providers or ride-sharing services to make once frustrating elements of business travel easier. At Egencia, for example, we recognised this early on. In 2016, we connected with Uber and Citymapper to show ground transportation options directly in the Egencia app. This feature allows users to compare the cost and travel times of a variety of services.

2 Making your traditional model more like a sharing economy model
While linking to other services may be an easy way of servicing customer needs through the sharing economy, there are other ways to do so. The most obvious one is to mimic the model used by the sharing economy to market your own, more traditional business.

Consider the stats: the sharing economy is a growing market, forecasted to be worth £9 billion in the UK by 2025. There’s no denying it – companies will use concepts garnered from the sharing economy to help grow company revenue, whatever their business model.  

The Expedia group helps hotels do this with a service called Expedia Partner Central (EPC). EPC allows lodging partners market their rooms through big data. These partners wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach many of the clients we give them access to – whether leisure or corporate. Egencia also makes it easier for these suppliers to organise the booking process through the platform. It gives them the opportunity to offer customised Egencia deals, as a way to market their properties specifically to the business traveller.  In turn, clients travelling to remote locations now have access to more hotels, making the corporate travel experience all the more comfortable. This is also advantageous for small and medium-sized companies with office sites in smaller cities or industrial zones where the hotel offering may be limited to independent hotels as opposed to big chains.

3 Buying into the model
Buying into the sharing economy model is one of the more expensive, but still effective ways for travel enterprises to integrate the sharing economy into their business. This option is a viable one for large travel companies who are looking to innovate and stay relevant.

The Expedia group recently acquired Homeaway, for example – a holiday rental marketplace . Through this acquisition, the company has opened up new doors to its customers, and Egencia is looking forward to offering Homeaway properties to business travellers along with their current alternative lodging portfolio. Aside from Homeaway, Egencia travellers have had access to alternative lodging options for years.

Whether it’s working alongside sharing economy providers, imitating the sharing economy model or buying into the model through an acquisition, all three options are equally viable ways in which traditional companies are revolutionising travel. If other players take the lead and join the movement, we should be seeing a revolutionary change in the travel industry that will set the stage for years to come.  

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