The Sharing Economy and The Traveler

“In its simplest form, the sharing economy is composed of hundreds of online platforms that enable people to turn otherwise unproductive assets into income-producing ones.”
Glenn CarterSecrets of the Sharing Economy: Unofficial Guide to Using Airbnb, Uber, & More to Earn $1000’s

The sharing model isn’t a new concept. Think of it as modern-day bartering, made possible through the internet and mobile apps. These somewhat new applications have made managing your share-based transactions as easy as pie!

Take a look at the impact some of these sharing platforms are having on our society:

  • Airbnb ($31 million) and Uber ($72 billion) had a combined $103 billion market cap which would rank them as the 38th wealthiest country in the world!
  • In 2016, 44.8 million U.S. adults used the sharing economy, and it’s expected to grow to 86.5 million U.S. users by 2021.
  • McKinsey estimates that in the U.S. and Europe alone, 162 million people or 20%-30% of the workforce are providers on sharing platforms.

While the rise of the sharing economy has had a widespread impact on almost every part of our lives, one monopoly that will continue to be deeply impacted is the travel industry. Sharing economy giants Uber and Airbnb continue to grow at an astounding rate, and emerging platforms like Turo and Ruckify are gaining strength as this economic shift picks up speed. 

How does the sharing economy affect the travel industry?

The sharing economy has been around for many years in many forms, just in a less organized manner. Sharing skills or services like hairdressing or carpentry in exchange for the things travelers need; a night stay, or a meal or two, has been an ongoing trend for decades. Beyond that backpackers have, for as long as I can remember, banded together to share costs on taxis or tours. That in effect is part of what the sharing economy is! 

Colorado, Ohio – Brad Barmore

It’s recent advances in technology and social media that have really shaped the sharing economy and allowed it to explode in a big way. For travelers, it has opened up corners of the world like nothing else before. It has allowed these people to share, connect, and interact with local cultures in a whole new way, while keeping money in their pockets. The sharing economy has also landed them the opportunity to travel cheaper by avoiding the traditional hotel and accommodation options instead of using home-share platforms. Now backpackers can connect with locals and really get the most out of the places they are visiting, and support local economic growth by putting their money back into local businesses. 

North Cascades, United States

Stay in someone else’s home while vacationing though?! Fifteen years ago, when Airbnb first launched, that “notion seemed strange”, noted CEO Brian Chesky, while celebrating his company’s anniversary. Now Airbnb services 300 million consumers, many of whom are millennials—generation marketers agree to focus more on experiencing trips like a local than they are on luxurious vacations.

Travel and hospitality have become breeding grounds for the “sharing economy,” in which smartphone-equipped backpackers are renting apartments and rooms via services like Airbnb, hailing rides from Uber, renting camping equipment or bikes from locals on Ruckify, or getting a car for the day from Zipcar.

Backpackers help the sharing economy grow
Rotterdam, Netherlands – Marcus Loke

In the past decade, home-sharing services have evolved from Couchsurfing—which now claims 14 million travelers and 400,000 hosts around the world—to luxury homes with onefinestay. Ride-shares now range from bikes to cars to RVs and even private jets, with services like NetJets and Flexjet

“An app is currently the most efficient method to facilitate this information, just as dial-up or time-based internet usage was the standard a long time ago,” explained Julie Hoffman, head of industry strategy and marketing, travel at Adobe, “apps have provided both aspects of ID authentication and geolocation to enable a service marketplace, and they remain the best way to create efficiencies in processes.”

Thoptewadi, India – Bhupendra Singh

Originally, travel & tourism was instituted on hotel rooms, motels, bed and breakfasts, and hostels. Even though these options came at any budget (from five-star stays to questionable sheets…), these options didn’t offer amenities that made a longer stay feel like your home-away-from-home. With the option of home-sharing, travelers are given the chance to rent anything that suits their needs within their budget — from a single bed in a dorm to entire apartments, houses, or castles. Rental community Ruckify offers a traveling alternative, where you can rent just about anything you may need, like camping gear or an RV, that can be returned when you’re done — so you are never adding weight to your pack. 

The availability of accommodations in a shared economy challenges the traditional idea of the hospitality industry and allows travelers to live like a local in areas of town that are away from touristy districts where hotels tend to cluster. In the spirit of a shared economy, the traveler enjoying their adventures can also share their home while away, earning income on the side allowing for longer travel.  

The future for backpacking powered by the sharing economy

In the last few years, apps, blogs, websites, and sharing economy services have exploded. The pace at which new sites, services, and information are available keeps picking up. That’s good news for budget travelers. Travel has never been cheaper or easier. Information is power. The more informed a traveler you are, the more you will be able to know who’s offering deals and where to find them.

Now you can bypass the traditional mode of travel and cut your expenses substantially. And the rise of new websites and the sharing economy, with the substantial growth in informative blogging over the last few years, has helped make that happen. 

With hundreds of startups coming and going in the new travel sharing economy, here are some top-notch sites and services (some old, some new) that you can use to travel cheap and connect with locals:

Amsterdam, Netherlands – Sebastian Bax
  • Camp in My Garden is a UK-based website started in April 2011 which is slowly expanding around the world. Its premise is simple: connect campers to people who let them camp in their backyards for a small fee. 
  • Got an RV that needs parking? RV with Me finds cheap parking and overnight solutions for RV renters. 
  • Need a tent for the day? A bike? A ladder? Skis? A beach chair for a few hours? Rent it from people who aren’t using theirs on Ruckify. Instead of buying new products, temporarily rent people’s unused stuff at a lower rate. It’s cheaper than buying something you may only need once or twice on the road and creates less waste, allowing you to travel a lot of lighter.

For budget backpackers and culture enthusiasts, this economic shift has been fantastic! The rise of the sharing economy online has been a game-changer for travelers. It allows us to save money, connect with locals, get off the “tourist” train, and see the local pace of life better! Ideal travel for new generations that are environmentally conscious and on a budget is actually attainable!

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