During my professional career I have already spotted a lot of “enemies” to the meetings industry. It started with hotels suddenly offering services of DMCs, with PCOs becoming core service providers instead of sticking to their own surroundings, revolutionary hotel and airline concepts and many more. Now there is the buzz of how “sharing economy” projects influence or change our previous business models.

Many of the concepts that we think of as “sharing economy” are in fact great indicators for social trends and should be seen as such. We all have learned a lot about sustainability, recycling, not wasting and finally, letting go of unnecessary burdens in life – meaning to own less, to take better care and to share or re-use.

People share art, cars, clothes, tools, bicycles, dinners, flats and houses and get either money (which is not really matching the idea of “sharing” as Padraicino rightly points out in his blog post – he is also the moderator of one of the seminars at IMEX listed below) or they barter something which they need more urgently at this time of life.

The part of sharing economy projects that most influence the meeting industry have some strong common denominators: they are about experiences, stories and people. If Airbnb now offers content on neighborhoods in cities around the world or if people prefer to eat out with locals instead of going to restaurants, it means that visitors want to connect their experience with real people from the place, that they look for strong and relevant inspiration and that they want good stories!

Personally, when on a business trip, I do not need surprises and fuzzy arrangements. I need a clean room, reliable internet, someone I can call if there is a problem in my direct environment. I do not have the time to cook (hence do not need a kitchen), I do not want to figure out my own transports and on principle do not want to support organizations that are considered illegal or do not pay taxes.

So I would always prefer hotel blocks – particularly during conferences or congresses as I love to see my friends from the industry around and can have lots of networking during breakfast or at the bar when coming back in the evening. Old-school, I guess, but precious to me and many others I know.

Security also plays a big role. Whereas in well-known cities like San Francisco (CVB doing a co-op with AirBnB) or Barcelona guests know that these places are basically safe and hence there is no danger in taking a flat somewhere in any neighbourhood, I doubt that the same concepts would work in cities that are completely unfamiliar to most of us, have a problem with crime or gangs or simply use languages that we cannot read.

Big cities that run high occupancy in hotels year-round might be happy about additional supply in rooms through organizations as Airbnb, cities which are new on the map, unknown, working hard to find investors for building new hotel infrastructure will surely think different.

Build your own view on the subject; at IMEX you find a whole choice of sessions around the subject: please check the full educational program for your pick of choices.

In German language: http://www.imex-frankfurt.de/programm/seminare/

Full program: http://www.imex-frankfurt.com/events/education/

Some examples:

3 meetings industry weaknesses ripe for sharing economy disruption

Date: Tuesday April 19th, 2016, Time: 12:30 – 13:00

Experient, A Maritz Travel Company, Speaker(s): Gary Schirmacher

The meetings industry is often slow to change, making us more vulnerable to disruption. While facilities cling to traditional setups, with classroom seating, banquet rounds, chafing dishes, and spotty WiFi, there are sharing economy innovators ready to pounce on these weaknesses. Facilities face some tough decisions. With more companies willing to rent just about anything, “stay the course” is now the riskier path.
Where are you spotting early warning signs of disruption? How might we leverage the sharing economy to reduce costs and/or create efficiencies? In this campfire, we’ll explore the challenges, as well as the remedies.

How can we work with the new sharing economy?

Date: Wednesday April 20th, 2016, Time: 09:00 – 10:30

Speaker(s): Caleb Parker; Jean Michel Petit, Gary Schirmacher

Moderator(s): Greg Oates; Padraic Gilligan

The rapid rise of the sharing economy consistently dominates headlines. Yet there’s a tendency for us to ignore this and carry on behaving as if organisations such as AirBnb and Uber are having no impact on the meetings industry. But we know they’re here to stay.

What would our industry look like if the ‘old’ and new economies co-existed? Can the hospitality sector, the bedrock of meetings, accommodate the new solutions presented by companies such as AirBnb? And, in the transport sector, can Uber-type solutions play an integral role in how we organise a city-wide congress? How can we all work together for mutual benefit?

Here is some more reading for you, showing different views around the meetings industry:

  1. http://www.themeetingmagazines.com/cit/sharing-economy/
  1. http://associationsnow.com/2015/08/what-the-sharing-economy-means-for-association-meetings/
  1. https://www.yahoo.com/style/airbnb-backlash-8-reasons-why-hotels-are-still-127008329517.html
  1. http://www.smartmeetings.com/meeting-planning/84218/airbnb-targeting-meeting-groups
  1. https://skift.com/2016/02/10/how-airbnb-is-quietly-positioning-itself-to-disrupt-the-meetings-industry/

Johanna Fischer
Managing director