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IMEX Group Sharing economy survey reveals differing views among meetings industry around the world

Sharing Economy participants shared their comments using laptops at their tables
Recent research carried out by the IMEX Group into the impact of the sharing economy within the meetings and events industry generated thought-provoking results. The findings were revealed at IMEX in Frankfurt on Wednesday 20 April during a seminar entitled: ‘How can we work with the new sharing economy?

The responses from 729 meetings professionals across the world provide a fascinating insight into their experience of sharing economy services, on the issues, challenges and opportunities they generate and whether they believe that usage will decline, plateau or increase over the next five years.

When asked: other than Uber and Lyft, have you used a sharing economy service when travelling for personal or business use? the choice of answers included ‘would not ‘ as well as ‘many times’, ‘once or twice’ and ‘not yet’. Most striking was the fact that 35 per cent would not use a sharing economy service for business.

Regionally around the world, there was significant variation. While just 15.1 per cent of those based in Africa, the Middle East or Far East claim that they would not use a sharing economy service for business, by contrast, a major proportion of respondents in the USA, 41.0 per cent, and even 42.0 of those based in Germany would not use one for business.

44.6 per cent had not yet used such services for business, a similar proportion worldwide. Altogether only 20.4 per cent had used these services for business at all, even though 49.4 per cent has used them for personal reasons.

Why not?
When those who had said they would not use a sharing economy service when travelling were asked: why they would not, uncertain quality and safety were found to be the key issues. 31.9 per cent of all respondents highlighted uncertain quality as a reason not to use it, with a notable 38.6 per cent of USA based participants choosing this reason. This is backed up by the findings of MPI Meetings Outlook research in February, asking the same question; 33.6 per cent of its respondents cited Uncertain Quality.

Safety was selected by 20.3 per cent, including 27.9 per cent of those in the US. 48 per cent of MPI respondents chose this.

When invited to specify other reasons of their own for not using such services, several suggested that lack of taxation and regulation was a concern.

Looking to the future, when asked whether they agreed with various statements about the development of the sharing economy in the travel sector in the next five years, there was a clear pattern.

Those in Germany were always distinctly less confident about prospects than the overall world view, so also to lesser extent were USA respondents. By contrast those in Africa, Middle East and the Far East as well as in Central and South America were usually more optimistic.

44.8 per cent of all respondents, up to 53.5 per cent of those in Germany, thought that legislation, regulation, objections and taxation will slow or limit the expansion in many countries.

When asked whether they thought that most barriers will be removed and the sharing economy will be accepted and flourish, 32.7 per cent worldwide, but only 25.5 per cent in Germany and just 26.1 per cent in the USA agreed. However 41.9 per cent of those in Central and South America think that the sharing economy will be accepted and flourish.

There was general optimism when asked whether they thought that many new applications of the concept will be launched successfully and be accepted. 44.0 per cent worldwide agreed but only 36.2 per cent in Germany did.

Usage in five years ahead
Considering usage in the future, overall there is a cautious confidence. 13.3 per cent think that it will plateau, 12.9 per cent believe usage and growth will decline as the novelty wears off and objections increase but 33.9 per cent that it will increase significantly. However, 17 per cent of Germans think usage will decline and only 27.7 per cent of them and just 28.9 per cent in the USA agree that it will increase significantly, substantially less than the 40.8 per cent in Central and Southern American who think this way.

The early morning seminar, organised by IMEX, drew a keen audience. Moderated by Greg Oates, Senior Editor of Skift and Padraic Gilligan, Managing Partner of Soolnua, the session featured several sharing economy entrepreneurs among the speakers. They were Jean-Michel Petit, CEO and co-founder of Vizeat.com; Gary Schirmacher, SVP of Experient, A Maritz Travel Company; Jan Hoffmann-Keining, CMO of Spacebase and Damian Oracki, co-founder of Showslice.

Commenting on the session, Xavier Guillemin, Congress Market Director of Accor Hotels said: “The structure of the event was good and I liked the concept of sharing comments. The speakers were very good.

“We have to face up to the trend of the sharing economy in an increasingly digital world. There are still some risks, particularly with safety and security. Overall, the hotel industry needs to be inspired by this trend.”

Hosted buyer Cristiane Wellisch of Origami marketing & events from Brazil, said: “I’ve already worked with Uber and Airbnb and this session enabled me to find out more about the market and the latest trends and how I might incorporate these ideas into my business meetings.”

Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group commented: “We wanted to give our buyers, visitors and exhibitors – and the industry as a whole – a snapshot of what meetings professionals think about this hot topic and the chance to learn more about this important, high profile business issue.

“We believe that everyone’s opinion is important and everyone should have a chance to air their thoughts. Through the survey and the seminar we aimed to facilitate this.

“The results of the survey and discussions highlight notable international variation in attitudes as well as both caution and optimism.

“It will be fascinating to see what the future actually reveals.”
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