Opportunities and Challenges of Sharing Economy in Hong Kong

On September 22nd, the Internet Society of Hong Kong (ISOC) hosted an event at PolyU to explore two successful crowdsourcing models and debate new regulation issues. Henek Lo, Managing Director (Greater China) for Airbnb and Sam Gellman, Head of Asia expansion for Uber shared their views on the Sharing Economy, “a socio-economic system where individuals can share underused assets with others willing to pay to use them”.

Both companies launched in 2009 and saw an exponential growth, particularly in Asia. Airbnb now operates in 139 countries and 44,000 cities to connect people to unique travel experiences. Uber currently offers private cars, taxis and rideshare in more than 100 cities worldwide.

Despite their unconventional founding stories, what make them unique is their social impact. Airbnb supports local businesses and reports 72% to 77% of the money spent by a guest is used outside the hotel corridors and directly invested in the host neighborhood. It also financially supports its community with 82% of hosts renting places they own and  47% mentioning Airbnb helps them to keep their home and pay their bills. On the other side, Uber is a life-changer for many and generates 20,000 new jobs each month (and is currently recruiting in Hong Kong).

However these highly impactful models with proven records are facing new challenges and regulation doesn’t always follow. In July 2014, Airbnb received a €30,000 fine in Barcelona and Uber pricing structure is sometimes questioned. However many governments are jumping in the bandwagon and protecting consumers choices. The Netherlands, the UK, France and other European countries have recently introduced new regulations to allow short-term rental in primary residence.

Would Hong Kong be next?


by Audrey Reisdorffer