GCB Sharing Economy Q&A with EventMobi & TravelZoo Shares Insights

With PricewaterhouseCoopers predicting that the sharing economy will surge to a $335B industry by 2024, there’s little doubt its growth and approach will continue to impact the world of leisure travel and our personal lives. As meeting professionals, its even bigger and will play an increasing important role in our careers and thinking.

IMEX in Frankfurt 2016 highlighted the sharing economy as one of the hottest education topics. We wanted to bring back a piece of that conversation to you if you weren’t able to be there (or even if you were) with a few thoughts from an exclusive interview the GCB conducted with Thorben Grosser of EventMobi and Nicolas Günther of Travelzoo -- both who hosted sharing economy seminars at the popular global get-together.

Q. GCB: What impact will this new socio-economic model have for the meetings industry?

A. Thorben Grosser, EventMobi:
The most important question is what already exists 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. Why shouldn’t organizers think about adding an unusual meeting room to the agenda instead of the conventional conference room?

A. Nicolas Günther, Travelzoo: The sharing economy is one of the sector’s most burning issues. Whether it’s cars, bikes or surfboards – there’s nothing that can’t be provided or exchanged. Up to now, accommodation or travel sharing offers were mainly focused on end consumers, however, the market is now shifting from B2C to B2B. At Travelzoo we are keeping a close eye on market developments in this area and regularly surveying our members. This provides us with a valid snapshot, and we can definitely say there is already demand and interest. How agile and flexible will hotels and congress centers be to react to such trends? The meetings industry as a whole is affected by the sharing economy and it will change the sector to a greater or lesser extent, depending on which aspect we’re talking about. All the players involved will have to learn to handle the challenges in a flexible way.

Q. GCB: Nicolas, your seminar topic is “Opportunities and Risks of the Sharing Economy“. What do you see as the main benefits and challenges?

A. Günther, Travelzoo:
Reputation is, for example, a factor that is an opportunity for service providers. Experiences are shared online which creates a great degree of market transparency. This provides hotels with a good opportunity to position their value 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 make accommodation reservations based on cleanliness, payment and the booking process . This 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 still very important for many customers. This opportunity shouldn’t be underestimated.

Q. GCB: Thorben, your talk asked the question “Sharing Economy: Planning Friend or Foe?” Which negative and which positive aspects do you see?

A. Grosser, EventMobi:
One aspect that I’d like to stress is the opportunity to create great experiences. There are too many hotels with the same boring brown carpets and even more boring brown walls. Meetings held in this type of space are predictable. How exciting would it be to do something that’s unpredictable, and design your meetings in a completely different way. Customers have different expectations now which means the meetings industry needs to come up with more inspiring concepts and unusual ideas. For example, do you have arriving delegates group up for a joint transfer to engage in networking right from the start? Or could participants stay together in one accommodation with individual rooms and a joint kitchen so people could convene in the evening, talk about what happened during the day, and continue networking? Things like this make a difference and create a special atmosphere and different dynamic between people. I think it’s important that event planners be more flexible and try things that are exciting and intriguing. This in turn means you have to let go of habits and be open and welcoming to new ways of doing things.

Q. GCB: Any other thoughts?

A. Günther, Travelzoo:
Having the right marketing strategy for providers is immensely important 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. 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.

Thorben Grosser

Thorben Grosser, EventMobi
Thorben Grosser, EventMobi

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 organizers 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.

Nicolas Günther

Nicolas Günther, Travelzoo (Europe) Ltd
Nicolas Günther, Travelzoo (Europe) Ltd

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 2,000 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.