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The collaborative economy and Scottish tourism
The collaborative economy involves connecting individuals or communities via online platforms that enable the sharing or provision of goods and services, assets and resources without the need for ownership. This report examines the current state of the collaborative economy in Scotland’s tourism sector, and evaluates how it may develop in the future. It focuses upon five sub-sectors: accommodation; P2P transportation (in particular, long-distance ride sharing); food and meals; tours and activities; and on-demand domestic services. It also aims to: explore the influence of the collaborative economy on Scotland’s visitor economy; consider the challenges and opportunities presented by the collaborative economy; review global policy developments in the collaborative economy and highlight case studies; set out a series of scenarios that illustrate how the collaborative economy may evolve in Scottish tourism under different conditions; and present recommendations on the future development of the collaborative economy in Scottish tourism.
The research consisted of a review of contemporary literature on the collaborative economy, an online survey of a variety of Scottish tourism sector stakeholders, a series of in-person interviews, and an industry event - the STA Autumn Conference, which was held in October 2017.
The research found that collaborative economy activity, particularly in accommodation, is not evenly spread across Scotland. It is highly concentrated in cities (and in certain central districts of those cities). It also found that long-distance P2P transport is concentrated on commuter routes only. Some collaborative economy platforms dominate the market and have seen runaway success, while others are still relatively un-developed in Scotland, compared to competitor destinations. Likewise, some sectors such as food and meals, and tours and activities are relatively underdeveloped. The report also notes that the nature of the collaborative economy means that official statistics may not capture the full extent of its growth. Many established tourism sector businesses and destination authorities in Scotland expressed a desire to improve their understanding of various aspects of the collaborative economy. The top five ways that survey respondents felt the collaborative economy could contribute to the development of Scottish tourism were: the creation of new tourism products and experiences; turning Scotland’s assets into authentic, value-added experiences; increasing digital engagement with visitors; spreading visitors beyond the most popular destinations; and increasing the number of overnight stays in Scotland. Key issues that respondents felt needed to be addressed included taxation, the liability of hosts and providers, and the protection of consumers. Many local councils also expressed concerns regarding the effects of short-term accommodation rentals. A number of policy implications were identified, relating to consumer protection, employment rights and benefits, zoning, congestion management, taxation, regulations and enforcement.
The report makes a number of recommendations including: addressing gaps in understanding regarding the collaborative economy via a variety of means, including masterclasses, seminars and regional roadshows; reviewing and updating relevant government guidance; clearly communicating regulations to providers and platforms, along with guidance on how to adhere to them; ensuring that local authorities have procedures for managing complaints relating to collaborative economy activities; encouraging innovation in product development and experience design among Scottish tourism stakeholders, for example, through collaboration with universities and start up incubators; and giving consideration to how collaborative economy activities may help to promote or detract from public policy goals.