IT’S TIME FOR DMOS TO TAKE THE LEAP ON THE SHARING ECONOMY
The sharing economy is booming, but until now most European DMOs have largely stayed out of the conversation, seeing this new economic model as a cluster of problems, rather than as a useful tool to meet their policy goals. It’s time to turn the tables and get involved. Fortunately at this month’s General Assembly of European Cities Marketing, TOPOSOPHY presented a free, practical guide on how to do exactly that.
For many European destination marketing & management organisations, the sharing economy is regarded variously as a source of conflict, a fascinating (if frenetic) economic model, a shadowy way for some to make money, or just a plain headache. This is quite understandable, given the near-weekly emergence of new products and platforms, the anger expressed by many of those running traditional tourism businesses, and the uncertainty around rules and regulations. Activities such as short-term apartment rentals don’t just concern the city tourism board: housing, planning and taxation departments also have good reasons to be interested in what’s going on.
While the challenges can at times seem overwhelming, it is still a fact that the sharing economy is really just becoming the new rental economy or, in some respects the collaboration economy. Consumers love it, and the types of people who are getting involved are becoming more and more diverse. Private tours, home-cooked meals, apartments and other tailored experiences for travellers are becoming more exclusive (and expensive) every day! The main thing however, it that it just works. Barriers to becoming a ‘user’ or a ‘provider’ in the sharing economy are low, and the platforms are generally attractive and user-friendly. As a movement, the ‘collaboration economy’ is enabling citizens to cooperate, meet, solve problems and share local resources like never before.
This month’s Annual General Meeting of European Cities Marketing (ECM) in Madeira, Portugal took the theme ‘Dare To Share’ reflecting the desire of ECM members to engage with the sharing economy. With DMOs facing so much pressure from all sides to do more with less, engaging in a serious way with the whole concept of the sharing economy can sometimes seem too daunting for a simple city DMO to take on. At the same time, it’s perfectly clear that it isn’t going to go away, and that consumers are using it as a normal part of their daily life at home, and while travelling.
So it’s time for DMOs to turn the powerful aspects of the collaboration economy to their advantage and take the leap. After all, many DMOs are under pressure from reduced budgets and higher expectations to participate in local economic development. They’re also increasingly expected to manage the destination, rather than concentrate purely on marketing. As we illustrate in the infographic below, the sharing economy can, in fact, provide a very useful tool for managing cities in a smart way, while improving social cohesion and enhancing the visitor experience.
While we believe that the sharing economy can offer real opportunities for city tourism authorities, it is however vital not to ignore one group of people: local residents. Local people provide the secret ingredient to great, authentic product development and marketing. At the same time, it is essential to ensure that sharing economy activities don’t impact negatively on their quality life or cost of living for the wider population. P2P platforms can open up the destination to new types of travellers and provide a valuable source of income for local people, however there is a darker side to this activity. Many are used by unscrupulous companies and individuals to evade safety rules and taxation, and platforms are accused of unfairly hoarding data when it could help in enforcing compliance with local laws.
Therefore, working closely with other government departments, DMOs have to ensure that when building partnerships with platforms, or even building their own, that they put their local people and policy goals first. To help DMOs understand how to ‘take the leap’ in a responsible, informed way, we’ve set out a seven-step guide. If you’d like to know more, just ask us.
At TOPOSOPHY we’ve been talking about the sharing economy for some time now, and have become respected partners for DMOs and industry associations looking to plan the way forward and adapt regulations to ensure a ‘level playing field’. We offer a range of solutions relating to the sharing economy, including customised workshops, tailor-made strategies, partnership building and even online platform construction to help your destination succeed.
We’re also the Official Research Partner of European Cities Marketing, the leading association for city marketing in Europe. As part of this partnership, TOPOSOPHY has been pleased to present a complimentary guide titled ‘DMOs AND THE SHARING ECONOMY: TAKING THE LEAP'which is available to download free from our website.