Almost everywhere I look these days I see the sharing economy in action. It’s a buzz phrase that has been rippling through the travel industry in recent years.
Probably more than any other industry, ours is responding and adjusting to its effects not just in terms consumer behaviour, but the entire structure of product and experience distribution has shifted wildly.
Tech Crunch recently noted that, ”Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”
The speed at which this has happened has many heads spinning. They’re transforming and disrupting markets in ways unimaginable not that long ago. It seems like we are already a long way from the Hertz and Hilton establishment now, aren’t we?
They’re popping up in the most unlikely niches, these apps. There are odd-job apps (Need someone to finish that half-done IKEA project?), open sheds (You need the hole, not the drill, right?), there are ride sharing apps, bike sharing, dinner with a local, couch surfing, tour guiding. You name it, there’s an app for everything.
And if their popularity is any guide, people absolutely love them. It’s tech, it connects people, it feels new and sparkly, empowering even. Both sides of the transaction seem happy, and this will undoubtedly lead to new marketplaces, new booking processes, and unexpected partnerships for those smart and nimble enough to adapt. But is it really sharing?
I think that’s a bit of a stretch. It’s not really even a swap. For the most part these apps and platforms are an extension of the eBay marketplace. I have something you need, you can buy it here. It’s a revolution built on tech platforms that unlock the value of idle or under-utilised things.
When I think of sharing in the travel industry, I think of the trading of knowledge, experience and ideas. It’s just about the most potent exchange I can imagine – minds collaborating, unlocking the human potential and value within. As a young entrepreneur I sought out experienced folk and tapped into their expertise as mentors. They pushed me when I needed to be pushed, and I see direct line connecting those experiences with where I am today at the helm of the Spencer Group of Companies. For mine, that’s a real sharing economy in action.
In 2009 I founded the Travel Industry Mentoring Experience (TIME) to help the future leaders of our industry unlock their potential by accessing the experience of the industry’s best minds. The program has accelerated the careers of dozens of young professionals prepared to open themselves up to opportunities through hard work and self-scrutiny.
It has delivered wonderful outcomes to some very talented people on both sides of the mentor-mentee equation. We are always looking for ambitious, dedicated young professionals from within the travel industry willing to invest their time in our experienced and talented mentors. If there are any in your business, we’d love to know about them.
There’s a famous quote that says, ‘Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.’ I suspect there’s no app for that. Yet.