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Hungarians aware of sharing economy, opinions vary

Slightly more than one third of Hungarian adult internet users have heard of the notion of the sharing economy, and one in five respondents actually participates, according to the results of online research conducted by eNET in November, sent to the Budapest Business Journal. However, opinions about the practice vary greatly.

Two years ago, when internet research and advisory firm eNET investigated the matter for the first time, the notion of the sharing economy was still in its early phase. However, since then the largest players in the peer-to-peer economy have strengthened and neither conventional competitors nor regulators have been able to adequately address the issues raised by their presence in the market, according to eNET.

The research company might refer to San Francisco-based ride-sharing firm Uber, which left the country this August after the legal framework for its operations became so strict due to continuous taxi demonstrations that Uber claimed it was impossible to operate lawfully. “After two years of operation, Uber exited the country in the summer of 2016, but new services and providers immediately filled the market niche,” eNET writes. 

Another sharing economy player in Hungary, and around the world, is Airbnb, which has come under heavy fire globally from hotels and accommodation service providers. “Airbnb, the other large player in the sharing economy, acquired one fifth of the accommodation market in Hungary (measured by the number of guest nights), according to BDO,” eNET says.

It has become clear that players in the sharing economy sector cannot be ignored any longer. And yet, although one third of adult Hungarian internet users have heard about the sharing economy, opinions about its benefits vary, according to questionnaire-based research carried out by eNET.

“Internet users are currently moderately enthusiastic about the peer-to-peer economy. They consider it an exciting new option, and a good way to protect the environment (46% agree with these statements), but the issue of trust - or rather the lack of it - is a strong restraining factor,” according to the findings of eNET, which adds that “almost 60% of respondents do not have sufficient trust in strangers to let them use their property. Only one third of internet users say that it’s a good idea to lend or share their valuable or unused goods.” 

Sharing a car or a flat 

Nine out of ten internet users have heard about car-sharing options on the internet, and therefore, as far as the sharing economy is concerned, ride-sharing is the most popular and also the best-known example. Eight out of ten have heard about “community taxis,” eNET says.

After sharing a ride, sharing accommodation seems to be the most established service, with six out of ten internet users claiming to have heard about it. “One in five people are familiar with crowdfunding, and slightly more than 10% are aware of the existence of community offices and coworking spaces,” eNET adds. 

Apparently, therefore, while general awareness of the notion of sharing and the areas involved is high, “companies operating within them are yet to fully convert that awareness into actual service usage.” According to eNET, awareness of Uber in Hungary saw a tenfold increase (to 79%) over its two years of operation here, though the ratio of its users remained in the single digits (7%). “Admittedly, the service had relatively little time to recruit users, and its availability was restricted to Budapest,” eNET notes.

A similar tendency can be seen in relation to Airbnb, the researcher says. “Although the company is a major player in the country’s accommodation market in terms of both the number of guest nights and turnover, Hungarian internet users account for only a small fraction of the bookings made through websites of this type: only 4% have ever used Airbnb, and a mere 1% have used its rival, Couchsurfing,” according to eNET, referring to the likewise San Francisco-based hospitality service and social networking website.

Hungarian services play catch-up

As far as service providers in the sharing economy are concerned, international players seem to steal the show, while Hungarian initiatives lag behind.

“Interestingly, while the services provided by the large international actors of the sharing economy are known by many but used by relatively few, there is one Hungarian player that has been expanding slowly but steadily since its first launch,” the researcher says about local ride-share outfit Oszkár Telekocsi. Awareness of the service has doubled since 2014, with the ratio of customers among adult internet users growing from 5% to 8%, eNET notes.

Another two Hungarian initiatives can also be considered success stories, according to the researcher. Rukkola.hu (a website to exchange used books) and miutcank.hu (a location-based community website for neighbors to share things, ideas and activities) are known by slightly more than one tenth of internet users, and each used by 2%. “In online articles and blogs, Rukkola is the fourth most often mentioned player in Hungary’s sharing economy,” eNET adds.

Dynamic growth in participation

Some 22% of Hungarian internet users claim to participate in the sharing economy in some way, primarily in car sharing, although bicycle sharing initiative Bubi - with 2% usage and 14% planning to engage in the future - is also worth mentioning.

“A typical sharing economy user is young, lives in the capital, and is either highly qualified or a student – and most likely single or cohabiting with their partner. Their dominant motivations are earning extra income, protecting the environment and lending a helping hand to others,” eNET says in defining sharing economy participants.

Based on the findings of the research, eNET concludes that “the collaborative economy is no longer in the pipeline; it has already moved into our living room, and it’s now demanding a seat in our cars, too.”