Social and mobile technology has changed the way people live, work, interact and travel over the last 10 years. Forward-thinking entrepreneurs have taken advantage of this constant, always-on mobile connection that we all share and it has manifested in many different ways – one of those ways is in a new concept called the “sharing economy.”
The idea of the sharing economy is simple. Many of us have resources that we aren’t using all the time – why not make those resources available to others who might be in need of them for a fee? The sharing economy has taken multiple forms in the world of travel. Here are a few of them:
Airbnb: A marketplace that matches people with spare rooms, apartments, homes, etc. with people who are in need of a place to stay.
Uber and Lyft: Services that match up independent drivers with people who need a ride – sometimes known as ride sharing.
Enterprise Carshare and ZipCar: Services that offer an alternative to traditional car rental by allowing people to “share” cars located throughout cities for hourly fees.
These services are a perfect match for the consumer market – but how so for business travel? Would any business traveler in their right mind prefer to stay in somebody’s spare bedroom rather than at a hotel? Would they pay for a ride to an important meeting in a 2009 Hyundai Sonata with a furry pink mustache on the front?
It turns out the answer, in some cases, is yes. As times change, technology evolves, and a new generation of travelers enter the business world, services like these that would, once-upon-a-time, not be given a second thought by any respectable road warrior, are now being seen as viable, and even preferable, options.
Even so, how does a company keep tabs on this within the boundaries of a managed travel program? How do they ensure traveler safety and duty-of-care? As this new crop of services evolves, law and liability has not quite caught up, causing numerous uncertainties. These questions and others will need to be answered as the sharing economy grows and evolves.
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