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25 September 2017Last updated
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The democratization of travel (and how you can cash in)

Want to rent our your home, parking space, dog or bike? Join the sharing economy

Mike Peake
18 Aug 2017 | 09:00 am
  • Source:Shutterstock

This is not another article about Airbnb.

No, this article is about something else. Renting out your spare room is yesterday’s news: What’s exciting today is the idea that simply by looking around you at the things you own, the city you know and the skills you have, you could make some serious money.

Entertaining and travel have well and truly been democratized. No longer do restaurants have the monopoly on serving food to people in exchange for cash; no longer are sprawling 1,000-pitch camp-sites the only way to spend a night under canvas.

But it goes even deeper – and the more laterally you think, the more exponentially the possibilities open up to you. Think not of your car as a weekend runabout, but a potential source of rental income Sunday to Thursday. Could your keen amateur skills as a surfer be translate into tuition for beginners? Would visitors to Dubai hand over good money in exchange for your insider guide to the city?

These peer-to-peer initiatives are springing up all over the world. And history has a way of showing us what works elsewhere eventually finds a place here, too.

The UAE is not a complete stranger to the sharing economy. As well as the aforementioned Airbnb, Dubai’s very own Beehive has been offering peer-to-peer lending since the end of 2014.

‘The timing is absolutely right for this in the UAE and perhaps the wider Middle East,’ said its chairman Rick Pudner, when they launched. But what of more left-field initiatives?

Well, how about your car parking space, for a start? If you’ve a good spot near the airport, or within a short stroll of a tourist hotspot like the Burj Khalifa, don’t let your slab of concrete stand empty – why not rent it out to someone who needs it?

This is where Dubai’s Yalla Parking comes in: It’s an initiative thought up by Scottish expat Craig McDonald, whose website, yallaparking.com, hooks up the have-parking-spaces with the have-nots.

‘I think the eureka moment came to us when my co-founder Harry Jones needed an extra parking space in his building in the Dubai Marina,’ Craig tells Friday. ‘He realised there were empty spaces in his building but no way of knowing who they belonged to and no easy way of contacting them. We believe that we have created a platform that addresses this problem in an innovative way.’

To list your spare space is a piece of cake: Name your price, state your availability and let motorists come looking for you. Craig reckons it’s a perfect example of a peer-to-peer enterprise.

“I think the ‘sharing economy’ model is becoming popular because it allows people to solve existing problems with innovative solutions,’ he says. ‘It also allows companies to enter established industries with fresh ideas and a new way of offering products and services which consumers are adapting to.’

Not a million miles away from Craig’s idea is US-based Turo.com, which, lets car-owners rent out their wheels to anyone, anywhere.

Of course for every Airbnb, there are probably ten Flightcars: That company, which let people rent out their vehicle instead of leaving it idle at the airport when they fly somewhere, shuttered last year after negative customer reviews.

1. Rent out your hound

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Fact: Many people like dogs. Also true: Lots of people like dogs but don’t actually want/have time to own one. Which is why UK-based startup BorrowMyDoggie.com came into being. They boast more than 300,000 members and say their goal is to leave ‘Pawprints of Happiness’ around the world. It’s not, however, a money-spinner for owners, because dogs are lent out for free. But there could be money in something similar – and who knows what people might be prepared to pay for half a day with for your pedigree Tibetan Mastiff.

2. Turn your bike into hard cash

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You bought it in the sales with the best of intentions, and now it’s stuck in your hallway gathering cobwebs. But the shiny bike that was going to help you get fit wasn’t a total waste: If you sign up with Spinlister.com, it could be a license to print money (sort of). This US-based operation’s tendrils have already spread out to the UAE, where an admittedly scant sixbikes (and a surfboard) are available to hire. Yours for $25 an hour: A ‘giant SCR road bike,’ apparently suitable for people between 5ft 4 and 5ft 8.

3. Is that a garden… or a campsite?

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While camping is not a popular summer pursuit in the UAE for a multitude of reasons (scorching 40-degree heat and no AC, to begin with), demand could rise if the number of places to camp were to increase. Places such as your own back garden. According to CampInMyGarden.com, pioneers of the ‘your yard as a place to pitch’ idea, it’s a great way for campers to find privacy, peace and uniqueness. They have more than 1,000 listings in the UK and Europe (plus a few scattered around the Levant), but their UAE tally thus far is zero. Why not mow the lawn, put in an outside toilet and get the ball rolling?

4. Welcome to my kitchen restaurant

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EatWith and VizEat both help amateur chefs tote their wares to would-be diners. The thinking goes that eating out at restaurants can get a bit samey – so why not go to someone’s house and have them cook for you instead? According to the BBC, marketing experts Euromonitor International recently called social dining one of the biggest trends to look out for. EatWith has yet to take off in the UAE, but at VizEat.com you can enjoy a housewife Manuela’s ‘seafood and meat from Italy’ with terrific views of the Dubai skyline,

5. Expand your holiday home collection

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IVHE (International Vacation Home Exchange) was an early adopter of the sharing economy – in just over a decade they have built up a portfolio of thousands of second homes and holiday homes whose owners can lend them out to other members when the properties would otherwise be sitting empty. The owners earn points, which can then be spent on hiring out any of the other properties in the network. There are lots of listings in the US, Europe and Australia, and there’s even a property here in the UAE on IVHE.com. If you’re an expat and your property back home is siting idle, it’s a smart way to leverage it for free holiday time all over the world.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list: the point is to illustrate how anyone can get in on the act. Business opportunities abound – from offering your services as a museum guide or a motivational gym buddy to hiring out the kids’ PlayStation to the restless offspring of holidaymakers for a week, the opportunities are endless.

There’s a social side to peer-to-peer initiatives, too: What if your next best friend is the guy you rent your car parking space to, or the lady who comes round for a 10-minute stroke of your dog?

‘For sure there is a social aspect,’ says Craig. ‘These sharing economies can create and enhance the feeling of a closer community: just look at Airbnb, with hosts feeling comfortable enough to open up their homes to other members of the Airbnb community.’

Fantastic. But is the UAE really ready for all this?

‘Unfortunately I’m not a great camper,’ chuckles Craig, crushing the UAE launch of CampInMyGarden, ‘but I would love to try EatWith – it seems like a great way to meet new people and try new dishes from all over the world.’

The UAE is starting to embrace the sharing economy, and the restaurants, hotels and big travel firms may no longer hold all the aces. Not only are you likely to start using some of the rather more social and personal services offered by ‘the little guy’ in the coming years, you might just be sharing your own skills, space and belongings with regular Joes, too.

Mike Peake

Mike Peake