[Ask the Experts] HITEC 2014 Keynote Rachel Botsman

As we lead up to HITEC 2014, HFTP Connect will be talking to industry experts and keynote speakers about their expertise and how it relates to the hospitality industry through the Ask the Experts column.

An expert view on the revolutionary Collaborative Economy and the hospitality industry

Rachel Botsman is a global thought leader on the power of collaboration and sharing through digital technologies to transform the way we live, work and consume. She has inspired a new consumer economy with her influential book What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live. TIME Magazine recently called Collaborative Consumption one of the “10 Ideas That Will Change the World.” Rachel is the founder of Collaborative Lab, the leading source of expertise for businesses and governments that want to embrace the collaborative economy to revolutionize business and society.

1. How did collaborative consumption theory become your brain child?

Five years ago, I started to wonder how ideas such as eBay, Zipcar and Airbnb were connected. What I recognized, was the early stages of a transformation in how technology could match ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ changing not just what we would consume but how we would consume through collaborative models and marketplaces; hence the term ‘collaborative consumption.’

2. How is this new collaborative economy affecting the hospitality industry?

Much of the attention to date has been on how peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Airbnb, Lyft or say Vayable will affect hotels, taxis and tour guide experiences respectively. The reason why these examples can scale so fast is that they are ‘asset-light’ meaning they don’t have high fixed costs of owning hotels or cars, but facilitate access to spaces and people with things to offer. The problem with the sentiment I often hear is ‘these players win, we lose.’ What needs to happen is to get to the root causes of the disruption. Why are they coming in and fulfilling latent or unmet demand in new ways? 

3. What advice do you have for the hospitality industry in terms of embracing this type of economy?

This is a big question I will dive into at my HITEC keynote, but to summarize, get above the disruption to look at this space through a macro economic and customer behavior lens:

How can you unlock the value of existing assets in new ways? An example is Marriot’s partnership with Liquidspace, which matches a growing number of mobile travelers with the hotels’ work and meeting spaces that would otherwise be underutilized.

What is it about ideas such as Airbnb that is appealing to people? Is it really about price and choice or is something deeper happening? I am going to dive into simplicity and personalization that lie at the core of many ideas within the collaborative economy, and how there is massive opportunity to integrate these values into hospitality.

4. What are some risks for the participants who engage in a collaborative exchange. Are there protections? Especially if the exchange is done wholly online.

We are just in day one in understanding how digital tools will create the trust for new types of collaborative exchange to happen. What’s interesting about many examples in the collaborative economy is they use online tools to create offline interactions. For example, you use an app on your smartphone to book a Lyft driver. An assumption that is often made is that these new ideas are unsafe, but it’s a shaky argument, especially when made by incumbent players. For instance, if I know who my driver is, what car they are driving, how other passengers have rated them, my friend or relative can track my journey in real time etc., plus the company has completed background checks on the drivers, how is this more unsafe than hailing a cab off the street? The current regulatory battles between the likes of Uber, Lyft and Sidecar is in fact exposing the cracks in protections in the traditional taxi industry.

An interesting side to the collaborative economy is how online exchanges can in fact create more safety and choice through greater transparency. Within a few years, this won’t seem risky because the distinction between online and offline will be completely blurred.

Rachel Botsman is the Keynote Speaker on Tuesday, June 24 at HITEC 2014 in Los Angeles, Calif. Learn more about her upcoming session here>.

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