Activities within the sharing economy (SE) are in a precarious situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though the SE is considered a disruptive phenomenon, especially in the accommodation and transport sectors, the Covid-19 has raised concerns about its survivability. Thousands of people have lost their jobs, the value of SE firms has dropped, and many service providers have no other option but to stop working. Understanding the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the SE sector is therefore essential. The objective of this study is therefore to examine the effect of the Covid-19 on sharing economy activities. We have used various publications—such as news articles, TV news items, YouTube videos, and blog posts—as data sources for this study purpose. Through content analysis, the study shows how the SE phenomenon is coping with the changing environment caused by the Covid-19. We analyzed the SE sector mainly from the perspective of four stakeholders: SE firms, service providers, service receivers (customers), and regulatory bodies. We explored the SE phenomenon based mainly on the following themes: anxiety, cancelation, job loss, income reduction, hygiene and safety, overcoming strategy, and outcomes. Based on the findings, we point out implications and avenues for future research.
The sharing economy (SE) has allowed travelers to organize their trips in new ways. They can book a room through Airbnb, travel in a car booked on Uber, eat food made by locals with EatWith, move around a city with a shared bike, and enjoy local attractions with Vayable (Heo, 2016; Zhou et al., 2020), all at a lower price than they would conventionally pay (Hossain, 2020). Forecasts indicate that the global SE market is expected to grow from US$15 billion in 2015 to US$335 billion in 2025 (Narasimhan et al., 2018). However, the Covid-19 has radically affected the SE. While few businesses have avoided the unprecedented disruptions of the pandemic (de Sousa Jabbour et al., 2020), the SE sector has been particularly affected (Zenker and Kock, 2020) since the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020. However, the importance of sharing is gaining growing attention in the Covid-19 era (Mont et al., 2020), because many sectors, such as healthcare tourism (Kumar et al., 2020) and restaurants (Camilleri and Neuhofer, 2017) are closely related to the SE, especially in bigger cities. The Covid-19 encourages firms to embrace openness in sharing information (Chesbrough, 2020).
The SE is defined as “people coordinating the acquisition and distribution of a resource for a fee or other compensation” (Belk, 2014, p. 1597). Many economic, social, and technological factors have positioned the SE as a promising phenomenon (Mody et al., 2019). There are numerous sorts of SE activities, and grouping them under a single category would be unproductive (Hagiu and Wright, 2019). The SE focuses on serving underutilized resources, thus promoting efficiency, community, and sustainability (Cheng et al., 2020; Geissinger et al., 2019), with the latter being a key concern for businesses (Muduli et al., 2020). Whether service providers—such as Uber drivers, Uber Eats delivery agents, and Airbnb hosts—should be considered employees, contractors, or workers is under serious debate. Sharing platforms consider service providers (e.g., Uber drivers and AirBnB hosts) as contractors, thus offloading the responsibility for insurance and social benefits (Hossain, 2020).