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Airbnb as an example of sharing economy

Airbnb as an example of sharing economy

The activities of the Airbnb portal—an entity offering accommodation services— were presented. An important premise for the selection of this entity is the question whether Airbnb actually provides services on the basis of sharing economy and whether this activity complies with the principles of sustainable development. Thus, in the first part, basic information is presented with regard to sustainable development in tourism, the next—selected areas of the sharing economy on the market of tourism services, and the finally—the assumptions of Airbnb.

One of the examples of implementing the sustainable development concept, especially at a local level, is the dynamically developing concept of sharing economy. It allows, for example, in the area of accommodation services, apartment owners to obtain additional income, and tourists—to avoid excessive expenditure on goods and services, contributing to the effective use of their resources.

The growing popularity of the idea of sharing economy in tourism is also strongly correlated with the development of meal-sharing. Very often, making accommodation available to tourists is also associated with offering local cuisine. The Food and beverage services offered by residents (e.g. allow interaction between residents providing food services in their homes and tourists. This permits both—residents and tourists—to gain valuable experience.

Another example of the sharing economy in tourism is ride-sharing. This is an alternative mode of passenger transport in which car owners offer transport to other people. In tourism, it is associated with long-distance transport (a short-distance example in this respect is, for example, Uber). It is therefore an alternative to rail and coach journeys (e.g., BlaBlaCar).

Among other services offered within the sharing economy, it is worth mentioning guide and pilot services, provided by committed residents of interesting tourist destinations in various parts of the world. Often, the guides are elderly, retired persons who, therefore, can earn some extra money for their retirement through voluntary donations of tourists participating in such a 2–3 hour walk around the city with one of its residents (e.g. travel4real).

The sharing economy concept is developing very dynamically in the tourism sector, which may contribute to the effective use of resources. Generally speaking, in the market of accommodation services, 2 basic models of the sharing economy concept can be distinguished (Stephany, 2015):

• exchange of houses and flats between service participants (e.g. HomeExchange, Knok, Love Home Swap);

• short-term rental—rental of houses, flats or rooms to interested persons by their owners, using platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway, Roomorama, Onefinestay, HouseTrip.

Airbnb is one of the platforms enabling the provision and use of accommodation services (rental of an apartment, room, suite), which are an alternative to traditional hotel services. It is a website established in 2008 in San Francisco, California, U.S. Its founders are Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk. The idea of this platform was born when its creators, due to the excessive maintenance costs of their rented apartment, decided to let accommodation to participants of a conference, which was soon to be held. Therefore, they placed an advertisement on the Internet and easily obtained additional money for renting. The company, which they founded, created a website that brokered the transactions of 21,000 customers the following year, and in 2015, it was already 40 million. “Airbnb is a provider of a vacation rental online marketplace. The company offers a website and mobile app that enables travelers to search for and book vacation home rentals and travel experiences for solo journeys, family vacations, and business trips, as well as to add events to their itinerary, message hosts, and get directions. Its solution allows hosts to share their extra space or lead experiences, update their listing and calendar availability, prepare a host guidebook, message guests, and manage reservations” (Airbnb, 2020).

Among the advantages of this form of service, it is worth mentioning the possibility of booking accommodation at the last minute and lower prices than in hotels. It is also an interesting alternative to traditional hospitality services, taking into account the potential ethnographic nature of the experience associated with it, the specificity (uniqueness) of the place of accommodation, etc. Of course, it is also a good alternative for the tourist development of those places where traditional accommodation is lacking (Airbnb, 2019).

On the other hand, the disadvantage of this solution in some countries is the possibility of renting housing to tourists via this platform, but without registration and thus, without paying taxes. Obviously, this causes dissatisfaction with those companies (e.g. hotels) that are obliged to pay such taxes, as well as those that supervise the apartment rental market. Moreover, short-term rental may cause an increase in rents in long-term rental and affect the shortage of residential premises, especially in city centres. Residents of popular cities from Barcelona to Lisbon report that they are being pushed out of their homes as developers buy properties to rent on Airbnb (Buckley, 2019). This type of service may sometimes also be treated as a competition that threatens traditionally provided accommodation services. However, there are examples of studies conducted in South Africa in which it is shown that Airbnb generally plays a largely complementary role rather than of diversionary (Mhlanga, 2020). At the same time, there are studies (in Greece) in which it is pointed out that Airbnb has turned into a significant competitor for hotels. It is primarily non-business and low-price hotels that are being influenced (Apergis, Hayat, & Saeed, 2020).

It is worth adding that Vrumi works on a very similar basis to Airbnb. Vrumi was launched in London in 2014. It is a “sharing economy online property marketplace connecting workers and professionals needing space with householders who have rooms available in the daytime” (Cameron, n.d.). It is a website where people can book desk-space at a stranger’s apartment or home. It solves the problem for selfemployed, micro-workers and other professionals (e.g. freelance web developers, writers, yoga instructors, therapists, other nomadic members) to find spaces to work, in areas they could not previously afford, and may not need full-time. For householders, Vrumi provides an additional source of income from rooms ‘sitting’ idle during the day, such as sitting rooms and dining areas (Cameron, n.d.). The typical hosts in Vrumi are:

• people out at work during the day;

• people with adult children who have left home;

• families with children at school during the day;

• semi-private space owners, e.g. rooms above shops and pubs;

• B&B hosts who like renting out space during the day, or during the off-peak travelling season.

Questions / tasks

1. Sharing economy—give examples of actions that are consistent and inconsistent with the idea of sustainable development.

2. Is Airbnb sustainable? Discuss this issue.

3. All-inclusive services vs. Airbnb—indicate the pros and cons for:

– the national and local economy;

– local communities;

– consumers;

– the natural environment.

4. Find an Airbnb offer of the selected host and rate it in terms of sustainable development.

5. Startup—what do you think about the idea sharing a flat for workspace? Give the pros and cons for the economy and hosts.

6. Analyse the core set of indicators for sustainability in tourism from the appendix;

– Find data for 1 city/region and compare how the tourism sector changed in time (use the scope of 10 or 20 years to analyse the change). Make some conclusions.

– Find data for 2 cities or regions and compare them. Make some conclusions.


Abdool, A. & Carey, B. (2004). Making all-inclusive more inclusive: A research project on the economic impact of the all-inclusive hotel sector in Tobago for the travel foundation. Retrieved from https://

Airbnb (2019). White paper on new sustainable tourism destinations. Report November. Retrieved from

Airbnb (2020, October 27). [Corporate website]. Retrieved from

APEC (2013). Sustainable development of tourism destinations. Tourism Leisure&Sports. Retrieved October 3, 2020 from file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/APEC%20Sustainable%20Development%20 Tourism%20Destinations.pdf

Apergis, N., Hayat, T., & Saeed, T. (2020). Airbnb and hotel revenues in popular Greek destinations. Journal of Economic Studies, 48(4).

Buckley, J. (2019). The future of sustainable tourism may lie with all-inclusive resorts. Retrieved October 3, 2020 from index.html

Cameron, A. (n.d.). Interview with Vrumi: The airbnb for workspace. Retrieved October 3, 2020 from

Mhlanga, O. (2020). Airbnb and hotels: friends, enemies or frenemies? International Journal of

Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 15(2).

Moneim, A. H. A., Gad, H. E. S., & Hassan, M. S. (2019). The impact of all-inclusive system on hotels profits: An applied study to five-star hotels in Hurghada City. International Journal of Heritage, Tourism and Hospitality, 13(1), 219-240.

Stephany, A. (2015). The business of sharing, making it in the new sharing economy. Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Tavares, J. M., & Kozak, M. (2015). Tourists’ preferences for the all-inclusive system and its impacts on the local economy. European Journal of Tourism, Hospitality and Recreation, 6(2), 7-23.

WTO. (2005). Making tourism more sustainable—A guide for policy makers. Retrieved form https://

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