Airbnb is an interesting concept – renting a stranger’s house, sleeping in their beds, and treating a property as if it were your own for a week. In the ever-evolving sharing economy Airbnb is both a pioneer, writing the future of online platforms and a disruptor. By using an alternative model known as the peer-to-peer (a model very different to the traditional hotel industry), it can offer affordability and new experiences whilst also prioritising localisation and accessibility (Lee & Kim, 2019).
Airbnb has disrupted the hospitality sector by reshaping the ways in which communities and individuals communicate and engage with each other. The company capitalizes on the premise of collaborative consumption, thus creating a global community and in turn an expansion of economic opportunities for people such as the Airbnb hosts and local communities (Negi & Tripathi, 2022). They have played a crucial role in combining the notion of ownership and sharing on online platforms, connecting the world and uncovering valuable insights into the power of sharing in the contemporary digital environment.
The rise of Airbnb
So what is Airbnb?
Airbnb is an ‘online marketplace’ that allows renters and those seeking short term accommodation to connect seamlessly online. The Airbnb renters (hosts) earn an income for their properties and guests get the perks of booking out cheaper properties that are more unique than homogenous hotel rooms. Guests also get to “live like a local”. The company was launched in 2008 by CEO Brian Chesky and his co-founders Nathan Blecharcyk and Joe Gebbia, with the mission of ‘matching local people with a spare room or entire home to rent to others who are visiting the area’(Folger, 2023). From there the name ‘Airbnb’ was introduced in 2009 and by 2011 the company had expanded and established a presence in Europe, setting up a headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, which further led to establishment in countries such as Australia. (Leanadmin, 2017). Airbnb now operates in more than 220 countries and has more than 150 million users with over 4 million listings worldwide. The company has managed to disrupt hospitality industry, out-performing well-known hotel chains while tapping into the sharing economy and revealing the ‘Airbnb effect’.
“Airbnb uses machine learning to help categorize its listing photos” by TensorFlow. Retrieved by https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPb2u9kwh2w
Today the company is a north star for digital transformation. They have done this by harnessing the potential of the sharing economy, re-inventing the way we interact online and helping to form lasting connections whilst engaging in community management in the new customer service era.
What is the sharing economy you may ask?
To define the sharing economy, we must first acknowledge the term ‘sharing’. Sharing is defined as ‘the division or distribution of resources, governed by cultural norms’(John, 2016). The norms referred to are ‘subject of Katriel’s description of ritualised sharing and the exchange among children’ (Katriel, 1987). What Katriel observed in children was that formalised actions serve to convey and govern social connections within a peer group. The same theory applies to the sharing economy, we as humans desire sustained connections where we feel we are gaining something. Therefore, the sharing economy is defined as ‘an economic system in which individuals and organisations make resources, such as goods, services, and accommodations, available for temporary use via the use of peer-to-peer networks’ (Miguel et al., 2022).
“#online #connected #cyber #trip #asl #psy #cells #meta #wood #datahose #datahoes” by starpause kid is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .
Over time, the transformation in the digital age has led to the existence of the sharing economy; a place where we are able to collaborate, co-exist, share online media, and even monetize it. Picture a world where sharing is not just a virtue but rather a basis for economic and social interactions – this is the product of the evolving digital age. As a result of the sharing economy the traditional line between individualism and collectivism is questioned on the forefront of human interaction, allowing companies such as Airbnb to flourish and become a household name across the world.
How has the sharing economy influenced the development of Airbnb?
The answer to this question is the introduction of the peer-to-peer model. Studies by Zervas et al. (2017) and Dogru et al. (2020) looked at the sharing economy’s principals (Zervas et al., 2013). They found that Airbnb relies heavily on collaboration to generate economic opportunities for the hosts, otherwise known as resource optimisation. Other examples of this include the birth of Virgin Airlines. When Founder Richard Branson was stranded in Puerto Rico, he collected money from fellow passengers and charted a flight for them all to the British Virgin Islands – and the airline was born. The concept changes the architecture of the community into a platform where social capital transactions take place instead of the traditional ‘individualistic society’ mindset.
Controversy in Airbnb
Is Airbnb all good? Does it only serve good purposes?
Well, there is, of course a down side. Back in 2019, American university professor Jeffery Bighan fond multiple hidden cameras around his Airbnb rental, raising concerns of privacy and safety. The original Airbnb listing mentioned a singular camera at “the entrance” of the property, however he discovered cameras in all the bedrooms, leaving his family feeling vulnerable (McMah, 2019). The host then proceeded to accuse the family of dismantling the security system as opposed to addressing the problem at hand.
This is just one example of many examples. The Bigham’s experience highlights the lack of clarity and consistency in Airbnb’s policies concerning surveillance devices. Whilst Hosts are supposed to respect the privacy of guests by refraining from putting cameras in places such as bathrooms or bedrooms there are still incidents that prove enforcement of privacy remains a challenge.
The sharing economy that Airbnb exists in, aims to offer convenience at an affordable price but evidently also has the potential to expose users to privacy concerns. The emphasis is on the need for stricter regulation enforcement and establishment of clearer policies regarding safety measures for users within the sharing economy (Stickle, 2023).
There is so much potential for the sharing economy to continue to evolve in years to come. Based on current trends, users are predicted to move beyond the traditional accommodation and transportation sectors into new territories such as healthcare and co-working spaces, promoting sharing platforms and further enforcing the peer-to-peer model. The beauty of the sharing economy is its ability to adapt and address societal needs in a collaborative setting, utilising the community-driven ethos.
This online marketplace, known as Airbnb, thrives on user based online interactions, through allowing people to temporarily offer resources and in turn gain profit from the transaction. Hence it creates economic opportunities whilst also re-evaluating the way we discern the concept of ‘ownership’. However, it is evident that with the sharing economy comes inconsistency, thus concerns in policies such as online safety and surveillance, shining a light on the need for stricter enforcement of online policies.
Essentially, Airbnb has been a pioneer in showcasing the sharing economy’s potential, offering not only the basis of affordable housing but also offering the ‘bigger picture’ of connecting in the digital age and realising that it all derives from the human desire to connect and establish sustained relationships both online and in real life.
Folger, J. (2023). How Airbnb works—for hosts, guests, and the company itself. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/032814/pros-and-cons-using-airbnb.asp#:~:text=Airbnb%20is%20an%20online%20marketplace,cheaper%20and%20homier%20than%20hotels
John, N. A. (2016). The age of sharing. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311495143_The_Age_of_Sharing
Leanadmin. (2017). Airbnb Warehouse Office. Allied Ireland. https://allied.ie/airbnb-warehouse office#:~:text=Architect%3A%20Heneghan%20Peng-,Location%3A%20Hanover%20Quay%2C%20Dublin%202,at%208%20Hanover%20Quay%2C%20Dublin
Lee, K., & Kim, D. (2019). A peer-to-peer (P2P) platform business model: the case of Airbnb. Service Business, 13(4), 647–669. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11628-019-00399-0
McMah, L. (2019, January 18). Chilling problem with this Airbnb photo. News. https://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-advice/accommodation/shock-as-family-discovers-video-camera-in-airbnb-home-then-gets-weird-response-from-host/news-story/85bedec27230862d458bfb63cd8968c3
Miguel, C., Martos-Carrión, E., & Santa, M. (2022). A conceptualisation of the sharing Economy: towards theoretical meaningfulness. In Springer eBooks (pp. 21–40). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-86897-0_2
Negi, G., & Tripathi, S. (2022). Airbnb phenomenon: a review of literature and future research directions. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Insights. https://doi.org/10.1108/jhti-04-2022-0133
Zervas, G., Proserpio, D. Μ., & Byers, J. W. (2013). The rise of the sharing Economy: Estimating the impact of Airbnb on the hotel industry. Social Science Research Network. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2366898
Stickle, B. (2023). Crime Sharing: How the Sharing Economy may Impact Crime Victims. Victims & Offenders, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/15564886.2022.2159905