One single digit suffices to understand the extent of the revolution led by the “sharing economy” on the world of services: in 2015, the turnover between private housing, transport, and private demand for professional services with “Burter” mode totaled about 28 billion euro.
However, according to a research by PhoCusWright, the real impact will be in 2025 when under the so-called sharing economy, transactions directly or indirectly related to tourism, transport, and the world of travel, will have a value of 570 billion euro. From Airbnb to Blablacar, from Uber to Eatwith, the tidal wave of the sharing economy has actually befallen the hotel business world, transport, and catering – basically, the core business of the world of travel.
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Among the recent cases, there is also ToursByLocals. These are not tour guides, but local people who offer visitors special customized experiences, such as cooking classes with local products or tasting the best local bars. They are marketing themselves as real city experts available to accompany particularly individual travelers in characteristic with genuine and folkloric experiences. These “experts” are often poorly cited by the traditional guides.
The sharing economy is a platform dedicated to “do it by yourself” tourism services that today is spreading in more than 90 countries worldwide. We are at the birth of a new concept of tailoring the trip, but with so many unknowns, that range from improvisation to the scam.
According to research by Bocconi University, 480 platforms are active in the online world to date, of which over 45% are operating in services for leisure. It is well understood that the concerns of traditional players, from hotels to tour operators, in general appear to be well-founded.
Not surprisingly, there is strong pressure on the EU and national governments for a regulation that is holding court in the specialized world of tourism. In other words, from the world of traditional distribution of the tourism product (no importance is given to the size of the enterprise concerned) comes a very strong and clear message: apply to the rules is one thing; play with competitors who do not have rules, or do not respect them, is a different matter.
On closer inspection, it is noted that first attempts of regulation are beginning to emerge, both at the national and European level, but it is on land tax which – according to analysts – focuses on the mother of all battles.
To date there are models that seek to distinguish the levels of taxation depending on the mode of transactions: if these derive from large commercial platforms or if they come from solitary actions of individuals.
France has decided that it is the platforms (first of all, the giant Airbnb) that are responsible to collect and pay advance taxes due to the transactions, as it is imposed on them at the time of signing up for specific tax records. The system in other European countries is still at year zero.
It is this uncertainty, specifically combined with the feeling of working in a kind of no man’s land, that encourages and thrives on distortions of the sharing economy. An industry that has encouraged and lifted the large volumes of tourist utilities, has also distorted and destabilized the tourism industry, which by its very nature, is very sensitive to operational disruptions.