Personally, I am perplexed by the ‘sharing economy.’ Some of these services are wonderful old-school transactions, the kind of trading that makes visiting traditional markets such a worthwhile experience. Some of it is unabashed, materialistic selfishness.
The sharing economy shares its core ideas with collaborative consumption — participants share access to products or services. Owners rent out something they are not using, such as a car, a room or a house. What interests in the realm of travel and tourism is whether the ideas work for non-English speaking friends in Latin America. As happy that I can book Uber in Las Vegas, I’d love to explore whether it’s a possibility in Oaxaca or Quito. What about selling tickets for home-cooked meals? This could be the next big trend for visitors seeking out sensational cooks who, alas, may or may not speak English. Cooking classes are big business in Mexico, but rarely take the visitor into the homes of locals.
What interests me is whether the sharing economy by any name is recognized and promoted by local tourism authorities. They’re keen on selling the ‘experience’ but what about experiences that connect visitors and locals. The new services are here to stay but are either unrecognized or derided as part of the ‘black economy.’
I understand that many accommodation services are considered as competition to traditional hotels, but I think the entire ‘homestay’ niche has long been ignored by tourism officials. It’s not as if the majority of travelers will abandon their chain hotel loyalty programs for the option of spending the night in someone’s guest room. I’d love to see all the options on the table (and by that I mean the official tourism portals) for visitors and all the behind-the-scenes education available to locals.