Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 1st 2018 Contents SB4
Sunday, April 1, 2018
booking overnight stays in pri-
vate homes would revolutionise
the global accommodation sector.
Now valued at US$1 billion it has
become one of the world's biggest
technolo y unicorns.
Airbnb's global success has
inspired local entrepreneurs
Michelle Low Chew Tung and Ten-
isha Brown-Williams, partners in
the home sharing start-up, Share-
With their local platform
launched and several clients on
board and more signing-up every
day, the duo is pushing to make
ShareHome Caribbean the pre-
ferred resource for people seeking
to increase their income by getting
involved in the tourist accommo-
Low Chew Tung and Brown-Wil-
liams are former employees of the
now defunct Tourism Develop-
ment Company (TDC).
Brown-Williams said the
start-up, launched in November
2016, originated from a friend's
struggle to ind a long term renter.
"Someone close to us was strug-
gling to get a long term renter for
her apartment due to the down-
turn of the economy. We sug-
gested using the space for tourist
accommodation as the location
and property amenities were
quite good. We assisted her in
making minor adjustments to the
space and creating proper busi-
ness procedures," Brown-Williams
The property was listed on Air-
bnb in January 2017. It was used by
several visitors, including some in
T&T for the irst time.
"From our years of experience
in the sector we knew that the
property would have performed
well in this type of business. More-
over, the owner started to earn
double the amount earned from
long term rental.
"We also noticed the domino ef-
fect of this business as her family
members started to be involved
in its management and so the rev-
enue being earned was spread
throughout her family network,"
This year the owner of the prop-
erty decided to use a second apart-
ment on the same compound for
visitor accommodation because of
the inancial gains from the irst
It was this experienced which
propelled Low Chew Tung and
Brown-Williams to launch Share-
Home Caribbean Limited.
"Tourism is about people and
we understand the potential tour-
ism has to affect the lives of people
positively both from the host and
visitor perspective," Brown-Wil-
In January, Low Chew Tung and
Brown-Williams engaged another
client but the one thing that stood
out was " the multiplier effect" of
their small hospitality business.
"This gentleman hired one
neighbour as his assistant man-
ager, another neighbour as a
driver for his guests, another as
his cleaner and another to do the
property maintenance. The con-
cept of sharing is epitomised in
his actions---other people are ben-
e iting from his business in a very
"The motivating factor for
ShareHome Caribbean is to im-
prove lives and by extension com-
munities through the creation of
sustainable entrepreneurial op-
portunities in the hospitality and
tourism sector," Brown-Williams
She said ShareHome Caribbean
is focused on building/enhancing
private sector involvement in the
local tourism sector.
Research indicates that for any
tourism sector to thrive, the pri-
vate sector must be at the forefront
supported by solid public sector
involvement, she explained.
"ShareHome Caribbean will
work with potential and existing
small tourism operators to es-
tablish strong tourism business
models that are pro itable and
sustainable," Brown-Williams said.
As the company continues to
build awareness it is currently
managing directly or indirectly
close to 20 guest rooms in Trini-
dad---equivalent to a small hotel.
As it is a fairly young business,
Low Chew Tung said the biggest
challenge is that tourism is still
not regarded by the public as a
viable business option due to the
heavy focus on oil and gas.
"What we have encountered is
a lack of awareness that relates
to the positive economic effects
tourism can bring to an economy.
For example, in the US the indus-
try supports 15.3 million American
jobs and contributes US$157.8 bil-
lion in taxes.
"Tourism is also not regarded
as an academic discipline and cer-
tainly not an industry that needs
to be studied with models and the-
ories to be applied to the business
of tourism. Most of us believe 'we
can roll of our beds' and operate
a tourism business with very little
skill and expertise to be obtained,"
Low Chew Tung said.
"There is a general lack of
knowledge and understanding as
it relates to the sharing economy.
The world is advancing with the
sharing economy philosophy and
instead of following the path of
extreme consumerism, people are
using their assets in a manner that
it is now working for them.
"We have been challenged in
getting people to understand the
needs of the new tourist. The new
tourist wants a more authentic,
local experience. Sharing your
space, your experiences, your life
as a Trinbagonian, offers visitors
what they really want," Low Chew
ShareHome Caribbean is intent
on establishing strong stakeholder
relations and expanding the tour-
ism value chain.
The company will be partnering
with the Small Tourism Accom-
modation Owners of T&T for a one
day workshop in collaboration
with the Tourism, Hospitality and
Sport Unit at the Department of
Management Studies, University
of the West Indies.
The workshop will highlight the
importance of the small tourism
accommodation sector to the eco-
nomic growth of the country and
will bring to the fore the increas-
ing global trends and issues the
sector is faced with and potential
solutions for further growth and
Brown-Williams said her life
after TDC has led to rewarding op-
portunities. She however, believes
that the closure of the tourism
company is unfortunate and T&T
is still reeling from its effects.
"My experience has been chal-
lenging yet rewarding. I have
been able to move on to activities
through ShareHome Caribbean
that are not hindered by bureau-
cracy, political agendas and a lack
of know-how, all of which strongly
characterises most of the public
sector in T&T.
"For me tourism has always
been more than a job, it is my
passion and this sustains my com-
mitment to the successful devel-
opment of the tourism sector in
T&T," Brown-Williams said.
Sharing success after TDC
Michelle Low Chew Tung
business in focus
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