Regulation of the sharing economy gives it the trust it needs to continue its exponential growth, the Travolution Summit has heard.
Debbie Wosskow, chief executive of Love Home Swap, explained to delegates how she had been involved in creating government-approved TrustSeal, the world’s first kite mark for the sharing economy.
With the rise of Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and others the sharing economy has grown by around 35% year-on-year.
“Much has been made of the threat this brings to the traditional travel industry,” said Wosskow. “But we are trying to change the consumers mind set through increased collaboration.
“Consumers want unique and affordable accommodation.”
Regulation, she added, can only make consumers feel safer in the peer to peer market.
She said: “Regulation has obviously been one of the key drivers and road blocks for the sharing economy. We have to fish where the fish are and, for me, that’s where the regulation is.”
Wosskow noted the black taxi protests against Uber and the ban on renting whole properties out in Berlin, which German officials say have contributed to a housing shortfall in the capital.
“As these companies mature, I think we will see them working more closely with states and governments to meet hospitality regulations,” she added.
“For smaller companies, it’s a challenge, but the question they are trying to answer is ‘how can they create trust in the minds of the consumer?’ It’s the lifeblood of the sharing economy.
“It’s a bit like the difference between driving a hired car and borrowing a friend’s car. You are not going to leave your friend’s car covered in water bottles.”
The TrustSeal, Wosskow suggests, will bolster the trust which is already built up through online user reviews by introducing ID verification and linking in with insurance companies, which she said have struggled to calculate the price of a premium for a sharing economy accommodation.
“I think the boundaries will merge,” she went on before saying how Choice Hotels have delved into the sharing economy. “There’s a lot we can learn from each other.”
At the Travolution Summit, Wosskow was joined on stage by Caroline Cartellieri, director of digital transformation at glh Hotels and Chris Roe, vice president of loyalty at AccorHotels.
Both said they were adopting some parts of the sharing economy.
Cartellieri said glh – which has 5,000 London rooms – is giving guests the chance to choose their own room by looking at the size, view and floor plan online ahead of their stay, and will alter the price accordingly.
“We are trying to embrace technology and give the customer what they want,” she said. “The traditional hospitality industry absolutely has to play catch-up otherwise people will migrate towards new models.”
She also said glh had given staff more “flexibility” to treat guests “as if they are hosting a friend in their home”.
Roe said check-in had become a “barrier” to arrivals, and is moving the service online by allowing guests to pre-register credit cards and passports.
“It’s not an overnight job,” he said. “But we want to take that whole painful process out.”
The future, the panel seemed to agree, was a combination of the traditional hospitality sector and the sharing economy.
“There’s space for everybody,” Roe said. “Hotels aren’t seeing occupancy decreasing or coming down in Airbnb cities. The customer will always decide where they want to go, and hotels will adapt.”