The sharing economy is on the up: While traditionally goods and services were supplied in exchange for payment, sharing and swapping is becoming ever more popular. The sharing economy includes anything from sharing consumer goods such as books or cars or renting out spaces and rooms to exchanging knowledge (Wikipedia), social contacts and experiences, for example in the case of “living room concerts” and “kitchen surfing” events.
The sharing economy principle doesn’t stop at the MICE sector either which raises a number of questions: Which challenges does this new economic or business model pose to organisers, operators, suppliers and service providers? How will events and services have to be organised and marketed for them to continue to be successful with delegates? Thorben Grosser of EventMobi and Nicolas Günther of Travelzoo will both address these questions in their seminars at IMEX in Frankfurt and we’ve taken the opportunity to chat with them beforehand about the sharing economy and what it means for the MICE industry.
GCB: The sharing economy seems to have become an established concept by now. Which consequences will this new socio-economic model have for the MICE industry?
Nicolas Günther: The sharing economy is currently one of the sector’s most burning issues. No matter if cars, bikes or surfboards – there’s nothing that couldn’t be provided or exchanged on loan. And if you’re thinking of joint cooking events or dinners, it becomes clear how important the aspect of providing an experience is in this context. The MICE industry, too, is affected by this concept.
Thorben Grosser: Personally, I can see first effects for the MICE industry in different areas. One example would be when delegates, for instance, don’t use the hotel rooms alloted to an event but search independently for their accommodation, or when they bypass bus transfers that are provided and use apps such as MyTaxi or similar services. But it’s not just that: We can also already see the first private meeting room providers coming on the market.
Nicolas Günther: Up to now, accommodation or travel sharing offers were mainly focused on end consumers, however, the market is now shifting from B2C to B2B – if private providers offer spaces for events, it’s something that could be of interest for event organisers. We, at Travelzoo, are keeping a close eye on market developments and, for example, regularly survey our members. This provides us with a valid snapshot of the industry and we can definitely say: There’s already a demand.
Thorben Grosser: And the most important question would then be: What does already exist and how are we using it? Transport and accommodation offers based on the sharing principle are currently the most prevalent ones but there are also other services that are gaining a foothold, such as renting out unusual spaces for meetings. It’s unlikely that these will be for large capacities, say 1,000 delegates, however, spaces for a few dozen participants are quite conceivable. There are, for example, a number of really interesting and out of the ordinary offers on the market in Berlin, such as an old barn or houseboat on the Spree river. So, why shouldn’t organisers think about adding an unusual meeting room to the agenda instead of the conventional conference room option? The question then is how agile and flexible hotels and congress centres will be able to react to such trends. However, in the end, the MICE industry as a whole is affected by the sharing economy and it will change the sector to a greater or lesser extent, depending which aspect we’re talking about. All the players involved will have to learn to handle the challenges in a flexible way or else they will face tough times.
GCB: Nicolas, your seminar’s topic is “Opportunities and Risks of the Sharing Economy“. What are the main opportunities and risks you would name?
Nicolas Günther: First of all, I’d like to stress that both aspects are important – the risks as well as the opportunities. Reputation is for example a factor that is an opportunity for service providers: Experiences with a certain provider are shared on a platform which creates a great degree of market transparency. This provides hotels with a good opportunity to position their offer in the market, in particular when they concentrate on their core competence in order to be more competitive. According to one of our surveys, 53% of respondents have reservations with regards to cleanliness, payment, the booking process, etc when it comes to accommodation services. Which opens up opportunities for hotels to score with their potential customers by stressing their quality and services because despite the whole sharing idea, convenience and service are very important for many customers. This shouldn’t be underestimated.
Thorben Grosser: In general, I rather see the positive things about it and the opportunities that the sharing economy opens up. One aspect that I’d like to stress in particular is the opportunity to once again create great experiences. Based on my own personal experience, there are too many hotels with the same boring brown carpets and even more boring brown walls. Meetings held in such an environment strike me as rather foreseeable and predictable. How much more exciting would it be to do something that’s the opposite and unpredictable and design your meetings in a completely different way.
Customers have different expectations now which means that the MICE industry needs to come up with more inspiring concepts and unusual ideas. This could, for example, be that delegates meet up for a joint transfer to the venue in order to engage in networking right from the start. Or participants could stay together in one accommodation with individual rooms for everyone but one joint kitchen for people to convene in the evening and talk about what happened during the day and continue networking. Things like this make a difference to the usual evenings spent in one’s hotel room and they create a special atmosphere and different dynamic between people.
I think it’s important that event planners are more flexible and try things that are exciting and intriguing for delegates. Which in turn means that you’ll have to be able to let go of all your much loved habits and be open to new ways of doing things and welcome them.
GCB: Which other topics will your seminars address?
Nicolas Günther: My IMEX talk is on the hand about the status quo and on the other hand about future perspectives. Having the right marketing strategy is an immensely important topic and that starts with your business model and includes how you position yourself and your USP as well as the use of push and pull tactics. Plus, I’ll also include a couple of case studies to illustrate that. The sharing economy is definitely a challenge and the question is how you react to it and what kind of things can really be done and implemented. At the end of the day, it’s always a question of how you position yourself and how your marketing and sales are structured. Last but not least, my seminar will give participants insights into how Travelzoo has approached the topic and how successful our campaigns are. All in all, there’ll be lots of useful and instructive information for anyone attending the seminar.
Thorben Grosser: To start with, it is very important for me to give attendees a market overview and outlook, i.e. I’ll be looking at questions such as what’s around, what’s being done, what’s being avoided and what could be feasible instead or what’s successful. And, most importantly: How can I as a service provider get a slice of this pie? And since it fits in well with the topic, the dialogue between the participants of my seminar, sharing knowledge and exchanging experiences, will be incorporated in my talk as well.
GCB: What are your feelings about taking part in the upcoming IMEX?
Nicolas Günther: I know IMEX to be an inspiring event and place where I’ll catch up with many of my contacts which is something I’m really looking forward to. This year, moreover, I’m particularly excited about my seminar and am very much looking forward to it.
Thorben Grosser: For me, IMEX is the best MICE industry event in Europe and I’m looking forward to represent EventMobi at the GCB stand which I feel very honoured to do.
GCB: Many thanks for the interview. We’re very much looking forward to IMEX in Frankfurt, too!
Thorben Grosser’s mission to provide easy-to-use apps for events and experiences precedes even his event management and mobile technology studies. As head of EventMobi’s European office in Berlin, he supports organisers all over Europe who want to integrate apps into their projects.
With its powerful platform, EventMobi provides the right tools for all kinds of events – be it registration apps, including live polls and surveys or event apps. The app enables delegates to experience the event that they visit via their smart phone or tablet. Customers such as Disney, Lufthansa and large associations trust EventMobi and the added value the technology provides for attendees.
Nicholas Günther, who holds a degree in business, took on the position of Head of Sales for Travelzoo Germany in January 2015 and as such, is responsible for the entire German sales team. Travelzoo is a global media commerce company with more than 28 million members in Asia Pacific, Europe and North America.
With 25 offices worldwide, Travelzoo® publishes offers from more than 2000 travel and entertainment providers. Travelzoo’s deal experts review offers and test prices, availability and quality. This provides advertising opportunities for hotels, airlines, cruise companies and tour operators as well as for tourist boards and local providers of leisure activities.