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Collaborative consumption was once a utopia for backpackers, hitchhikers and other independent travellers. However, due to technological advances such as Internet and online payments, and against the background of the global economic downturn, this niche has transformed into an economy sector to be reckoned with. Collaborative consumption describes not only an economic shift, but also the social shift away from ownership towards (temporary) access to goods and services. This move towards sharing and collaborative consumption has affected many industry sectors, in particular the travel and tourism industry (Skift).

An old concept - Accelerated through digital

The sharing economy is not a new phenomenon, especially in the tourism domain. Consumer-to-consumer vacation rentals and ride share portals (or bulletin boards) have been around for a long time. But it were in particular efficient and trustworthy e-commerce payment solutions, as well as the emergence of GPS and Internet enabled smartphones that turned sharing and collaborative consumption into a viable alternative for the mainstream consumer.

New services disrupting market places

Start-ups like Airbnb, Carpooling and Lyft have seen tremendous growth in over the past two years. they now reached the business scale where they start to compete with mainstream hotels and transportation providers. While shared services can compete naturally on price, the real completive advantage often lies in the experience itself. Staying at a local’s place or sharing a lift with a different person can provide an element of excitement and an experience in itself. These “off the beaten track” authentic experiences are not only an option for cash strapped travellers. They attract increasingly high-end market audiences that have a desire to explore and experience a destination, outside of the pre-determined tourist paths.

Sharing economy established as accepted channel

Shared economy providers are taking seriously by major travel players. For instance major travel ditributor Travelport signed a new multi-year distribution agreement FlightCar last months. FlightCar is a service which lets people parking at the airport to rent their vehicles out to other travellers. Thereby the sharing economy start up is now bookable through ravel agents across the US and can be incorporated as a dynamic element into any travel product.

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