- The pandemic has been relatively good to parts of the sharing economy.
- While traditional share services like Uber and Airbnb have been hit hard, other rent-by-the-hour services are seeing a boom.
- People are renting apartments by the hour for a spousal break, hotels by the day to get work done free of distractions, and pools to beat the heat.
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As the pandemic wears on and people look to escape their homes as safely as possible, a number of new services are waiting with open arms.
Consider Globe, an app born in 2019 that offers short-term apartment and home rentals by the hour. It nearly went under when the pandemic first hit and hosts began to work from home, reported USA Today’s David Oliver. But demand quickly changed: From mid-March to mid-May, Globe CEO Manny Bamfo told Oliver, the company grew by 100%, adding 30,000 users.
Globe’s hourly rates range from $25 to $100 depending on location. People are turning to Globe for several reasons, Bamfo said, from essential workers looking for breaks during the workday to non-essential workers looking for a reprieve from those they’re stuck at home with.
Brittney Gwynn told The New York Times she used Globe to book a vacant apartment in Brooklyn for two hours at a $50 hourly rate to take a break from the boyfriend she’d been quarantining with. “We’re getting on each other’s nerves,” she said.
Parents need both a break from their kids and activities to do with them
Hotels, too, are catering to the same demographic who just need some peace and quiet.
Renting a motel by the hour isn't a new concept, but it's become more socially acceptable as mainstream hotels offer day rates to cooped-up individuals.
Many hotels, from Marriott to Sheraton, have created daily office packages for parents looking for a calm, childless workspace, reported Lisa Fickenscher for The New York Post. Hilton's Cincinnati Netherland Plaza hotel, for example, is offering guests a room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for $69.
Other parents are looking to beat the heat - and give their kids something to do during a camp-less, school-less summer.
For that, there's Swimply, an Airbnb-like swimming company that burst onto the sharing scene in 2019 with rentable pools. For rates ranging from $15 to $300 per hour, users can search the website and rent out private, local pools.
Fast forward a year, and Swimply is now seeing a boom in demand. Its cofounders told CNBC they've seen 2,000% growth this summer. "We simply cannot keep up," co-founder Asher Weinberger said. "There's no school. There's no camp. What are parents supposed to do with their kids?"
The pandemic is opening up new doors for the sharing economy
But this doesn't mean the entire sharing economy is thriving.
By May, both Airbnb and Uber, two sharing economy giants, had each laid off about a quarter of their workforces. Airbnb cut 1,900 jobs, while Uber laid off 6,700 employees. The latter had seen rides down by 80% at one point, although it has since been experiencing a slow rebound.
What the boom in demand for some rental services - and lack of demand in others - does mean is that the sharing economy is evolving. And as researchers learn more about the transmission of COVID-19 and quarantine fatigue leads people to search for distractions, startups like Globe and Swimply are there with a socially distanced solution.