In a consumer society, the notion of ownership is never far away from our collective consciousness. Most of the economic culture in our society has been organised around this concept, and the prevalence of such notions as retail therapy reflect this very clearly. With this in mind, reliable, regular employment was seen as an absolute necessity, at least for most people.
But times are, perhaps not changing, but evolving nevertheless! Disruptors such as AirBnB, BlaBlaCar, and TaskRabbit are changing our perception of how business is done, as well as challenging our traditional notions of employment. TaskRabbit in particular is becoming increasingly popular, with the website boasting that the number of tasks, or temporary jobs, posted per month on TaskRabbit has tripled during the last year alone.
AirBnB is the name that many people will be familiar with, essentially a website which enables people to rent out lodging. Founded in August 2008 and headquartered in San Francisco, California, Airbnb has become a major disruptor for the accommodation industry over the last six years, and the owners of the company state that the company has booked about 10 million nights of accommodation during the first four years of its existence.
What this outlines is that in this complex, modern economy consumers are more than ready to either use or rent products from others. According to recent statistics acquired by Nielsen, two-thirds of consumers are likely to either use or rent products from others in a shared community.
This is an interesting statistic, and it was equally intriguing to note from the Nielsen survey that this consumer trend was not confined to one particular geographical area. Nielsen surveyed people in 60 countries across multiple continents, and found no great cultural divergence in results. It is clear that consumers are increasingly looking upon such opportunities as an avenue to earn extra spending or saving money.
These companies indicate that people want authentic experience rather than ownership, and this is equally reflected in the tourism industry. Recent research shows that travellers particularly enjoy spending time in original and conceptual settings, where the accommodation within which they are staying becomes the point of interest for their holiday or stay.
'Cookening' illustrates rental model
With regard to this notion, new concepts are emerging frequently. One such interesting innovation is referred to as ‘cookening’, and has become particularly popular in France. This is appropriate given the French association with fine cuisine. What effectively happens with ‘cookening’ is that locals offer a dinner at their home to travellers.
Another element of the cookening experience is that no money changes hands; users have a points account. Everything in the cooking experience is free. Users simply offer objects or services to borrow in order to earn points, and then subsequently pay for meals with points that they haven't earned. When a user opens an account (s)he is allocated 20 points. This model encourages people to borrow and offer things in exchange in order to have enough points to borrow again in the future.
In addition to new disruptors to various industries taking up this model, established brands are also tapping into this new sharing economy. Toyota has recently launched a ride sharing concept in Grenoble, France, putting 70 electric cars into commission for the scheme. Reserving a ride with the electric cars can be handled via an intuitive smartphone app, and rental fees for the cars start as low as €3 (about $4).
Elsewhere, the aforementioned AirBnB have teamed up with Ikea for a brand new synergy. This collaboration will enable three groups of four guests to have the opportunity to stay in an Australian Ikea showroom overnight, free of charge. The only thing that will need to be paid is a $12 Airbnb administrative fee. Guests we'll even receive an Ikea breakfast, and will be given the sheets that are used during the night as a free supplementary part of the deal.
The new digital economy
What each of these different unique approaches demonstrates is that in the modern digital economy, people are finding new ways of collaborating with one another that casts off the shackles of traditional models of ownership and consumerism. People are quite willing to share, particularly if it saves them money, or if they get something valuable in exchange.
It is highly likely that tourists are particularly inclined towards such behaviour, given that tourism itself is indicative of a sense of adventure. Travel-related businesses and destinations can benefit from this trend by devising innovative schemes to attract the thrifty and adventurous among tourists.