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Global Tourism Experts Discussed the Trends of the Fast-Growing Sharing Economy in Vilnius

Date

2016 05 26

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The global traditional tourism business representatives, users of new technologies and developers of modern tourism services who met in Vilnius this Thursday discussed new business models and an impact of information and communication technologies on providers of traditional tourism services. It has been generally acknowledged that a tourism revolution is taking place throughout the globe and travelling is becoming a human right rather than a human need.

At the opening of the seminar “New Business Models: Disruption and Opportunities”, the Minister of Economy Evaldas Gustas pointed out that sharing represents an increasingly large share of the tourism market and competes with traditional service providers.

‘People have always been sharing or exchanging their property, services, knowledge or experience gained; nevertheless, as digital developments have been spreading rapidly, sharing has become an established feature in the online environment and has gained momentum. Today, the modern urban transport systems cannot be imagined without the services of sharing cars: such systems are already available in the largest capitals of Europe, like Berlin, Paris, Roma, London, etc. Vilnius already has the CityBee sharing service; in Lithuania, services are provided by Uber and accommodation services are provided by AirBnb,’ Minister Gustas said.

According to the Minister, those who use the Internet and offer services as well as those who look for services have more possibilities today: those who offer services online have an unlimited number of potential users and those who look for services may choose from many proposals and find the services that meet namely their needs which probably cannot be found in the environment of the traditional service providers.

‘Some people consider sharing as a new threat and non-respect of rules, tax avoidance, meanwhile others see this new opportunity as competition which always promotes the service providers to improve,’ said E. Gustas.

Mr Taleb Rifai, the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), noted that two revolutions, i.e. the revolution of information technologies and the revolution of tourism, are currently taking place in the world. According to Mr Rifai, the 21th century could be referred to as the tourism century, since today every seventh global inhabitant travels and the number of tourists has increased by even 40 times since the end of the Second World War. ‘Travelling has become a human right rather than a human need’ said Mr Rifai.

Helen Egan, the Director of Industry Relations at the global platform TripAdvisor, who participated in the seminar, has pointed out that, according to the data of the survey conducted by the company, people tend to spend more money for travelling, i.e. even one third of the surveyed people are planning to increase their budget for travelling. Another trend is that the choice of today’s traveller on the destination place is mainly determined by the national culture and people. According to the data of the survey conducted by TripAdvisor, even 49 per cent of people choose the destination country taking this into account. 21 per cent of people choose the destination country taking into account special offers of tour operators or hotels, the choice of another 20 per cent of people is determined by advertising.

The representatives of such global platforms like BeMyGuest, Room Mate Hotels, ReviewPr, AirBnb and other companies well-known in the field of tourism throughout the globe attended the seminar.

This seminar was part of the 60th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Europe organised by the Ministry of Economy in cooperation with the UNWTO which took place on 25–26 May 2016 in Vilnius. This year, the event has attracted a record number of represented states as compared with the last 5 years. During the meeting the relevant global tourism issues, i.e. from the changing security environment to sustainable tourism development, have been discussed.

On Thursday, the Minister of Economy E. Gustas signed agreements on cooperation in the field of tourism with San Marino and Albania on behalf of Lithuania. The countries have agreed to strengthen cooperation among the companies, organisations and institutions operating in the field of tourism with a view to promoting tourism development. The countries will support the exchange of experts, sharing experience in the field of tourism, the exchange of data on tourism objects and tourism advertising material among publications, mutual cooperation in the field of professional training; also, the countries will facilitate the exchange of information on tourism training programs as much as possible.

The agreement with Lithuania on behalf of San Marino was signed by the Minister of the Ministry of Tourism and Relations with the Public Utilities State Corporation T. Lonfernin and the agreement on behalf of Albania was signed by the Vice Minister of Economic Development, Tourism, Trade and Entrepreneurship of Albania A. Karapici.
In 2003, Lithuania was the first Baltic State to become a member of the UNWTO. In 2015, for the first time in its history, Lithuania was elected as the Vice-Chair of the Commission for Europe of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and a representative for Europe at the Sustainable Development of Tourism Committee of the afore-mentioned organisation.

The UNWTO is an intergovernmental international organisation established in 1970 upon reorganisation of the International Union of Official Travel Organisations. In 2003, the UNWTO was reorganised into the United Nations specialised agency. The main objective of the UNWTO is the promotion of tourism, taking care of economic development, the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, respect for mutual understanding, human rights and freedoms. The UNWTO has 157 Member States, over 400 Affiliate Members and 7 Associate Members.

In 2015, income of Lithuania from inbound tourism amounted to EUR 1.18 billion, i.e. 3.2 per cent more than in 2014. During the first quarter 2016 the number of tourists in the accommodation establishments of Lithuania was 468.8 thousand, i.e. 12.2 per cent more than during the same period of the last year.