In the Sharing Economy, Sometimes You Get More for Less

A five star hotel like this offers amenities that you could never get from an AirBnB, such as room service and concierge.
A five star hotel like this offers amenities that you could never get from an AirBnB, such as room service and concierge.
Enjoying the view in a luxury hotel in Croatia.
Enjoying the view in a luxury hotel in Croatia.

The Sharing Economy is Growing for the Middle Class, says a new Survey

By Max Hartshorne

I toured a hotel recently on a resort island in Croatia.  The amenities were top shelf–this was a five-star property–and we passed a room with an enormous marble tub, a remarkable view of the crystal waters of Cikat Bay sparkling in the distance and gigantic beds.

I asked the hotel manager if AirBnB and other vacation rental sharing site posed a threat to all of this.

“I don’t think so. People want to be taken care of. People want to be able to ring someone up and have champagne brought up, or more pillows, or any number of services. You don’t get that when you rent an apartment, there is no concierge, there is no room service–these are things that high-end customers want, and are willing to pay for.”

So for this hotelier, the looming threat of the new sharing economy hasn’t reached their Croatian ivory tower yet.

The Sharing Economy

Allianz Global Assistance USA, the large travel insurance company, recently completed a survey about the sharing economy.  The analysis found that one in three Americans (36 percent) say they are likely to use sharing economy services such as AirBnB, HomeAway, Uber or Lyft during their summer vacation this year. This is up from last year when just 17 percent of Americans said they were likely to use these services.

Yes, for many Americans, indeed, we’re reaching a tipping point where some of the things that were once high value, such as room service, newspapers at the door, uniformed bellmen, and x-rated movies on TV just don’t matter that much.

Think back on the last time you paid for a hotel.  In my case, it was a cramped room with rickety light fixtures, hardly any room in the bathroom to set things down, and we had to scramble to be out by 11 am.  My God!  This was in a resort town, Ogunquit Maine, and everything from the parking to the extra pods of Keurig coffee cost extra.

Wherever you want to go, it's often possible to find an Uber to take you around and an Air BnB to put you up for the night.
Wherever you want to go, it’s often possible to find an Uber to take you around and an Air BnB to put you up for the night.

I would have much preferred to have found a comfortable apartment for that same $197 a night (not including the 20 percent tax!) and brought our own bag of coffee, used their coffeemaker, and spent as much time as we liked enjoying the place.

Pitfalls of Super Cheap

The challenge for me is convincing my partner to trust that we’d find the place to be as great as it looked on the website. That’s because of an unfortunate times we stayed at a super cheap Airbnb and the owners turned out to be living in their former garage, just steps from where we slept. The next morning we had to see them at breakfast, which turned us off.

Allianz’ survey found that more Americans are utilizing the sharing economy because they think it provides better value (26 percent; up nine percent), but also the more authentic local experience (22 percent; up 10 percent).

Hotels, still, provide a peace of mind that is elusive when you rent sight unseen on the Airbnb site. Respondents felt hotels provide better customer support when things go wrong (40 percent).

Taxi Vs Uber

When it comes to traditional yellow cab taxis, I have become a firm believer in the new wave–Uber is simply a better way to travel. The Allianz survey shows an uptick in trust in using services like Uber and Lyft, and with valuations skyrocketing into the multi-billions, it’s clear the market agrees. GM just forked over $500 million to buy a piece of Lyft, and Apple put $2 billion into a Chinese ride hailing service in July 2016.

We were in Baltimore last year and traveling with a group of writers, and we needed to get back to our hotel from Fells Point.  We had missed the last water taxi, so we hailed a couple of taxi cabs. Upon arriving at the hotel, when our hostess reached for her credit card to pay, the elderly driver shook his head. Uh oh. So Pam had to run all the way up to her room on the 20th floor to find enough cash to pay these two drivers their due. For me, that was my last traditional cab ride.

Money No Longer a Factor

Fast forward to my recent business trip to Houston. Everywhere I had to go, I simply popped open the app, and a driver arrived within five minutes.  In more than 10 rides, every driver except one was friendly, told me about places to see and go in Houston, and I never had to think of how much to tip, or take out cash. To me that’s the number one thing I love about Uber, that the money is no longer a part of the ride.

I have this recurring obsession whenever I watch a movie and see people jumping out of a cab. Don’t they have to wait to run their credit card through the machine in the back seat?  Don’t they need to figure out their change, get a receipt, and figure the tip?  Nope, in Hollywood they just jump out.

Back to the Survey

Allianz reports that millennials are leading the surge. Their likeliness to use sharing economy services jumped from 37 percent to 65 percent in just one year. While it’s tempting to see this trend as a budget travel tactic though, Americans with an annual income of $50,000 or more are more likely to use sharing economy services than those with an income less than $50,000. This might have to do with being internet savvy, which is clearly skewed to higher incomes, however.

Thanks to our partner Allianz for sponsoring this post, providing travel coverage for the unexpected. GoNOMAD Travel received financial compensation from Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) as part of a broader marketing package but all opinions are our own.

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Max Hartshorne
Max Hartshorne has been the editor and publisher of GoNOMAD Travel in South Deerfield Mass since 2002. He worked for newspapers and other sales positions for 23 years until he finally got what he wanted, and became the editor at GoNOMAD. He travels regularly, enjoys publishing new writers, and watching his grandchildren grow up.