Tips on how event planners can embrace the Sharing Economy

Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and yet they are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties. These companies threaten the viability of traditional tourism industry players. Each room booked outside a hotel means lost revenue for meeting planners, event holders, and hotels. Each rideshare trip is revenue lost, not only to a taxi, but also to a limo or tour bus driver. But the reality is these companies are here to stay, and if we take a step back, we may see that they, and the sharing economy as a whole, present significant opportunities for the tourism and meetings industries. We are reminded of the ESPA’s Annual Conference, when our CEO, Jeff Duncan, spoke on the sharing economy’s impact on events. Read on to learn how you can embrace the sharing economy for your future events:

What exactly is the sharing economy?

It’s been around for years; home sharing started with the Dutch in 1953 when they wanted a more affordable way to vacation. In 1995 we saw the start of VRBO and Craigslist. It’s the peer to peer sharing of goods and services, typically coordinated through online websites. It covers all sectors of the economy, from buying and selling items and services – think eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Fiverr – to crowd funding and shared work space. It is the most disruptive innovation impacting our industry today, and with a current value of $26 billion, which is expected to grow to $335 billion in the next decade, it’s imperative to find ways to embrace it.

Strategizing for shared economy


Here’s how event planners can embrace the sharing economy

Outsource Tasks: We’ve all been there, working tirelessly to create awe-inspiring welcome packages, updating registration badges the night before the event, and picking up last minute décor. The sharing economy makes it easy to outsource tasks without having to pay for additional employees. Hire out routine tasks or schedule pickup and deliveries through personal service websites, like TaskRabbit.

Creative: Event branding and collateral can add up very quickly. Sites such as Fiverr offer logo design and video creation, with gigs starting from as little as $5 USD.

Transportation: Encourage attendees to use local ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. Wait times are usually much shorter than taxi lineups, plus they can ask local drivers the best places to visit while in town. South By Southwest® organizers in Austin, Texas, have said that before the arrival of Uber and Lyft, transportation was among the chief complaints of event attendees. People were waiting hours for taxis that never came and event staff labored over complex shuttle schedules to move guests around town. After the arrival of ridesharing, transportation didn’t even rank among the top six complaints.

Venues: Whether you need to rent a conference room to host a meeting with all of your vendors prior to the event, or you want to source a unique venue space for your next conference, there are many sharing sites that showcase unique venues for hourly or daily rentals.

Local Goods: Typically attendees seek souvenirs to bring home with them. Partner with local artisans and allow them to sell goods during breaks in your event. This allows you to give back to the local community and support the local economy, while your attendees can find authentic, unique gifts.

Accommodations: During city-wide events, alternative lodging – like Airbnb – accommodates more event attendees and can create downward pressure on hotel room rates during peak times. Airbnb guests – who have been shown to spend more money, stay longer, stay outside hotel districts and visit establishments that don’t usually see tourist traffic — can extend and distribute the economic benefit associated with events.


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