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Monetizing Network Hospitality: Hospitality and Sociability in the Context of Airbnb

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Abstract

We present a qualitative study of hospitality exchange processes that take place via the online peer-to-peer platform Airbnb. We explore 1) what motivates individuals to monetize network hospitality and 2) how the presence of money ties in with the social interaction related to network hospitality. We approach the topic from the perspective of hosts – that is, Airbnb users who participate by offering accommodation for other members in exchange for monetary compensation. We found that participants were motivated to monetize network hospitality for both financial and social reasons. Our analysis indicates that the presence of money can provide a helpful frame for network hospitality, supporting hosts in their efforts to accomplish desired sociability, select guests consistent with their preferences, and control the volume and type of demand. We conclude the paper with a critical discussion of the implications of our findings for network hospitality and, more broadly, for the so-called sharing economy.
Monetizing Network Hospitality:
Hospitality and Sociability in the Context of Airbnb
ABSTRACT
We present a qualitative study of hospitality exchange
processes that take place via the online peer-to-peer platform
Airbnb. We explore 1) what motivates individuals to
monetize network hospitality and 2) how the presence of
money ties in with the social interaction related to network
hospitality. We approach the topic from the perspective of
hosts – that is, Airbnb users who participate by offering
accommodation for other members in exchange for monetary
compensation. We found that participants were motivated to
monetize network hospitality for both financial and social
reasons. Our analysis indicates that the presence of money
can provide a helpful frame for network hospitality,
supporting hosts in their efforts to accomplish desired
sociability, select guests consistent with their preferences,
and control the volume and type of demand. We conclude
the paper with a critical discussion of the implications of our
findings for network hospitality and, more broadly, for the
so-called sharing economy.
Author Keywords
Network hospitality; sociability; hospitality exchange; money;
sharing economy; collaborative consumption; Airbnb
ACM Classification Keywords
H.5.m. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI):
Miscellaneous.
General Terms
Human Factors
INTRODUCTION
Peer-to-peer online platforms afford novel collaborative
practices related to the sharing and exchange of both tangible
and non-tangible goods and services such as space, skills,
time, and money. Well-known examples of these platforms
include the hospitality exchange services Couchsurfing and
Airbnb. The two share several key characteristics: Firstly,
users of the Couchsurfing and Airbnb sites are required to
create a profile, through which they can make a listing,
offering a free place to stay or space for rent, respectively.
The profile is also needed when a user wants to request
hospitality from others. Secondly, in addition to profiles trust
between users is fostered, in both services, with the help of a
public recommendation system wherein users are encouraged
to rate and review each other after each hospitality exchange.
Regardless of the similarities, there is also a crucial
difference between the two: Airbnb is focused on short-term
peer-to-peer rentals with a well-defined “price tag” attached
to them, whereas Couchsurfing fosters hospitality that is
offered with the expectation of no direct compensation, on
the basis of generalized reciprocity within the community.
The social interaction and the exchange of accommodation
that occur via hospitality-exchange services have been
referred to as network hospitality. When coining the term, in
the context of Couchsurfing, Germann Molz [10, p. 216]
defined network hospitality as the way people “connect to
one another using online networking systems, as well as to
the kinds of relationships they perform when they meet each
other offline and face to face.”
Previous studies [see e.g. 10 for an overview] have examined
practices of network hospitality in the Couchsurfing
community, where the hospitality exchange is, as a rule,
devoid of monetary transactions. We add to the emergent
body of research on network hospitality by examining
hospitality-exchange processes that take place via Airbnb, a
service that promotes monetizing network hospitality. We
present a qualitative study that explores 1) what motivates
individuals to monetize network hospitality and 2) how the
presence of money ties in with the social interaction related
to network hospitality in the context of Airbnb. Our study
approaches the topic from the perspective of hosts – Airbnb
users who participate in the network by offering
accommodation for other members in exchange for monetary
compensation.
Prior research on network hospitality [3,9,10,11] highlights
that the pleasant and meaningful social encounters that
hospitality exchange facilitates are an important motivation
Tapio Ikkala1,2
1 Helsinki Institute for Information
Technology HIIT/Aalto University
P.O. Box 15600, 00076 Aalto
FINLAND
tapio.ikkala@helsinki.fi
Airi Lampinen1,2
2 University of Helsinki
Department of Social Research
P.O. Box 54, 00014 University of Helsinki
FINLAND
airi.lampinen@iki.fi
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for participation. From an ethnographic study of Couch-
surfing, Bialski [3, pp. 44–5] argues that host–guest
interaction in network hospitality can be conceived of as a
form of sociability: a form of association into which people
enter for the sake of “the sheer pleasure of the company of
others.” This conceptualization originated with sociologist
Georg Simmel [22, p. 255], who depicted sociability as an
intrinsically rewarding “play-form of association that “has
no ulterior end […] but the satisfaction of the impulse to
sociability.”
We found that, while the possibility of earning money is an
important factor in igniting participation, the social aspects
of network hospitality play a central role in sustaining
hosts’ motivation to keep participating. Moreover, our
analysis shows that the presence of money provides
hospitality exchange with a structure and formality that
contributes to the hosts’ sense of control and ease of
participation. This is manifested in various phases of the
hospitality-exchange process, from decisions about who to
host to the resulting social interaction with guests.
Hosts often try to select guests who are in some way similar
to them. The inclusion of money in the exchange alters the
social roles of guests and hosts participating in network
hospitality by moving them towards those of customer and
service provider. This shift makes host–guest interaction
less of an obligation, even for the host. It does not,
however, exclude the possibility of sociable interaction
between host and guest. Our analysis suggests that the
inclusion of money in exchange relations may contribute to
favorable conditions for sociable interaction since it
removes a sense of obligation of intense social interaction
between hosts and guests, allowing host–guest relations to
develop on a more voluntary basis. We conclude by
discussing the implications of these findings for further
research, design, and policy efforts in the domain of net-
work hospitality and the “sharing economy” more broadly.
RELATED WORK
Our theoretical framework draws on 1) literature on the
nature and functions of hospitality, 2) Simmel’s notion of
sociability and his theorization on the role of money in
structuring social relationships, as well as, 3) previous
research regarding network hospitality.
Hospitality and Sociability
Brotheron [4] has defined hospitality in terms of exchange,
emphasizing the relationship between the host and the
guest, the two fundamental parties in hospitality.
Hospitality is framed here as an exchange that incorporates
both material and symbolic transactions, including offering
accommodation, food, drink, and expressions of gratitude.
Arguing from an anthropological point of view, Selwyn
[20] states that hospitality can be seen as a fundamental
form of social interaction that establishes solidarity and
feelings of togetherness between people. Acts of hospitality
establish and consolidate links between individuals and
groups; thereby, hospitality is an important social form
holding societies together [20].
Importantly with respect to the topic of this paper, Morrison
et al. [18] point out that hospitality can be either conditional
or unconditional; that is, it can be acted out for purposes of
making a profit or be offered without any expectation of
compensation from the receiving party. In other words, the
exchange relationship between the guest and the host may
be either negotiated, in which case two individuals bargain
and discuss the terms of the exchange beforehand, or
generalized, in which case there is no expectation of direct
reciprocity between the parties to the exchange [6].
Lashley [13] identifies three partly overlapping domains of
hospitality: social, private, and commercial. The social
domain of hospitality refers to the social setting in which
hospitality takes place, along with the social functions of
hospitality. The private domain incorporates the ways in
which hospitality is acted out in domestic settings. Finally,
the commercial domain has to do with the provision of
hospitality as an economic activity (for example, at guest-
houses and hotels). We situate the network hospitality that
takes place via Airbnb at the intersection of these three
domains: it is a private form of hospitality, for the hosts
accommodate the guests in their homes (or at other
properties that they own), in line with their own preferences
and customs. Yet, because the hospitality is offered in
return for financial compensation, a commercial element is
present too. Finally, the hospitality exchange that Airbnb
promotes is part of the emerging culture of network
hospitality, a form of hospitality that takes place between
individuals from around the globe and leverages online
social networking tools to enable and coordinate peer-to-
peer exchange.
It is notable that hospitality is often understood to go
beyond its material aspects: the social interaction between
the host(s) and the guest(s) is an important aspect of how
hospitality plays out. It is when we view hospitality from
this point of view, that Simmel’s [22] idea of sociability
becomes relevant. This is because we argue that ideally the
host-guest interaction evolves in the frame of sociability, a
stylized form of being together where sociality, often in the
form of casual conversation, becomes an end in itself [22].
Sociability gains its value from interaction in its own right,
rather than some ulterior motive or a practical purpose [22].
Sociability is an essentially reciprocal mode of interaction
in which tact is of great importance. Participants should
avoid both excessive bragging about status and excessively
overt expressions of personal troubles and faults. That is, in
Simmel’s [22] terminology, one should not cross either the
upper or the lower threshold of what is appropriate.
Moreover, sociability is “homogenic interaction” in which
participants are expected to act as if all interacting parties
were equal and genuinely equally respected. Moreover, it is
indispensable for the contents of the sociable “chat” to be
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interesting for all participants, in order to allow for a lively
exchange of talk. As we will discuss later in the paper,
these requirements explain, in part, why it can be easiest to
accomplish sociable interaction with people who are similar
to oneself in social standing, interests, and favored codes of
interaction. This tendency to homophily is especially
interesting in the context of hospitality exchange, since one
could argue that the social value hospitality brings to the
hosts often feeds upon the effort to cope with the
uncertainty of hosting a “stranger” [5], an interesting but
unfamiliar person.
Network Hospitality
As noted above, network hospitality refers to how those
engaging with hospitality-exchange services connect to one
another via online social networking systems, as well as, to
the kinds of relationships they perform when they meet face
to face [9,10]. Members of these networks can engage in
hospitality exchange by hosting visitors or by staying with
others as guests. The idea that hospitality exchange is not
just about accommodation but also a matter of meeting
people and engaging in mutually meaningful social
interaction is well documented in previous research on
network hospitality [3,9,10].
The concept of network hospitality has its roots in Wittel’s
[24] notion of network sociality. Network sociality refers to
contemporary forms of association and social interaction,
which, according to Wittel, increasingly consist of and are
composed around flexible networks of various kinds rather
than stable communities. Building on this idea, the concept
of network hospitality draws attention to the interplay
between hospitality and technology and to the ways in
which strangers encounter one another in a mobile and
networked society [10].
Network hospitality is a relatively new phenomenon [9,10],
although the practice is rooted in ancient traditions of
hospitality and welcoming strangers. Its more recent
historical precursors include various formal and informal
hospitality networks of people who would provide meals,
transportation, accommodation, or other aid for traveling
strangers. For example, Adler [1], in her historical analysis
of “tramping,” describes how trade societies established
networks of homes and inns to accommodate traveling
craftsmen in early nineteenth-century England.
An example of early, more institutionalized, networks of
hospitality exchange is Servas International [9,10]. It was
founded after the Second World War as a non-profit
cooperative to promote tolerance and world peace through
cultural exchange. The members’ contact details were
published and distributed on paper, and participants relied
on telephone contact and hand-written letters to coordinate
hospitality exchanges. By the late 1990s, the Internet had
made pegging through printed lists obsolete as several
hospitality-exchange organizations, among them Hospitality
Club, Global Freeloaders, and Hospitality Exchange,
appeared online [9]. As was Servas International, these
networks were primarily non-profit projects guided by the
belief that travel, interpersonal exchanges between people
from different countries, and the generous offering of free
hospitality could spread tolerance, friendship, and even
world peace.
Beyond accommodation, examples of network hospitality
include ride-sharing, meal-sharing, and travel-sharing
wherein locals show travelers around their town [9]. All of
these practices leverage online platforms to facilitate offline
social interaction and the exchange of material and sociable
resources [9]. In sum, networked technologies are creating
new hybrid spaces of social interaction, incorporating
complex interplay of mobility and immobility, online and
offline interaction, brief but intense encounters, and local
articulations of a global project” [9, pp. 216–7].
Money and Hospitality
As said, sometimes hosts may (and are expected to) ask for
compensation for their efforts. Dernoi’s [7] article from the
1980s suggests that hospitality exchange wherein private
individuals and families accommodate travelers in their
homes for a fee was widespread, although much more
scattered, already before the appearance of enterprises such
as Airbnb. Moreover, in between private households and
commercial hospitality businesses there are what Lynch et
al. [15] label commercial homes, including small hotels,
bed and breakfasts, and family accommodations. While
accommodating guests often provides an essential stream of
income for those running commercial homes, the practice
also allows for social engagement with the guests, such as
receiving gifts and hearing interesting stories of guests’
home country [15]. While Airbnb does afford such
professionalized hosting, none of our participants were
taking advantage of this opportunity. Rather, all of them
carried out hosting in (what used to be) their leisure time.
According to Simmel [21], the use of money as a means of
exchange frees people from various kinds of traditional and
moral constraints, thereby contributing to their personal
autonomy. Simultaneously, the indifference of money has a
rationalizing and homogenizing effect on the life and
interactions of individuals. Simmel [21] argues that, while
money affords precision and calculability in social
relations, it creates indifference and increases the social
distance between actors. Accordingly, it seems unlikely that
monetized hospitality exchange could lead to the
non-instrumental, voluntary, and enjoyable social
interactions that previous research has associated with
practices of non-monetary network hospitality.
However, we argue that the potential distance that money
creates between actors does not exclude the possibility of
meaningful, sociable interaction between individuals. On
the contrary, we claim that the presence of money and the
existence of a clear price for the network hospitality that is
being offered may provide conditions in which sociable
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interaction can flourish – even more easily than it might in
non-monetary network hospitality, wherein concerns over
indebtedness and reciprocity may complicate interpersonal
connections. Bialski [3, p. 75] has expressed a similar idea
in relation to hitchhiking Web sites via which passengers
pay for the ride. She reflects on how the presence of money
can change the social dynamics of the situation: “Perhaps
the sociality that emerges despite the explicit nature of the
reciprocity deems the conversation less instrumental, more
voluntary, than the conversation and interaction in some
cases during the implicit reciprocity between
Couchsurfers.
To the best of our knowledge, no previous studies have
examined network hospitality from the perspective of
individuals who offer hosting via hospitality-exchange
platforms that promote monetizing network hospitality. We
address this gap with our analysis of what motivates people
to monetize network hospitality and how money is woven
into the resulting social interaction.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
We present findings from a qualitative case study
comprising 11 in-depth semi-structured interviews with, all
in all, 12 participants from 11 households who had listed
space for short-term rental via Airbnb in the Helsinki
Metropolitan Area, Finland. We will now describe in more
detail our participants, as well as, present the interview and
analysis procedures we applied.
Participants
We recruited the participants through the Airbnb platform.
The first author created a profile on the site in order to
contact potential participants. The only prerequisite for
participation in the study was that the person had hosted at
least one guest prior to the interview and was managing an
active listing for an Airbnb rental in the Helsinki
Metropolitan Area at the time of recruitment.
Participants’ age varied from 22 to 58. Seven subjects were
male and five female. Four of them were living alone, one
shared a flat with two housemates, and seven lived with a
partner (four of the latter had children, too, in their
household). In one household, both adults were present for
the interview. Other interviews were conducted one-on-one
with the person managing the Airbnb profile. One of the
households was in the city center, nine were in urban areas
relatively close to the city center, and one was in a suburban
area. Seven participants lived in an owner-occupied flat
while the other five had a lease.
The number of guests our participants had hosted ranged
from just one to over 30. Four of the participating
households had hosted fewer than 10 guests, seven more
than 20. The participant with the most hosting experience
had listed her apartment on Airbnb in March 2012, while
the most inexperienced had joined the service just a month
before the interview. Eight subjects had experienced Airbnb
also as guests, while the remaining four had participated
solely by hosting. Two of the interviewees had experience
of other hospitality-exchange networks (i.e. Couchsurfing)
– one as a host and the other as a guest.
For a final characterization, we identified two primary
modes of hosting through Airbnb. We use the label remote
hospitality for hosting situations wherein the host is not
physically sharing the home (or other property he or she
manages) with the guest and instead lodges somewhere else
during the guest’s stay. Here, the interaction with the guest
is typically limited to messages exchanged through the
Airbnb service, e-mail, SMS contact, phone calls, and the
occasional quick encounters in which the keys to the
apartment are handed over and final details of the stay are
discussed. Another way to perform hosting through Airbnb
is by being physically present and sharing the apartment
with the guest. An example of this is renting out a spare
bedroom or one’s living room. We refer to this mode of
hosting as on-site hospitality. In our study, five
participating households practiced remote hospitality, while
the other six engaged in on-site hospitality.
Interview
Procedure
The interviews were conducted the Helsinki Metropolitan
Area in June–August 2013. At the time, there were, in total,
around 400 Airbnb hosts in and around Helsinki;
monetizing network hospitality via Airbnb was still a
relatively novel phenomenon in this locale. The interviews
were conducted by the first author at a location of the
participant’s choosing, either in their home or at a public
venue such as a café. No compensation was offered for
participation.
The interviews were semi-structured. The first author
conducted two pilot interviews in order to test and refine
the interview procedure. The pilot interviewees were
acquaintances of the second author. They were active
Airbnb hosts in the area at the time. On the basis of our
observations from these interviews, the interview procedure
was modified slightly for smooth flow, and some questions
were added to make the interviews more comprehensive.
The pilot interviews were used solely to improve the
interview procedure. They are not included in the set of 11
interviews that forms our research material.
The interview outline was designed to elicit a holistic
account of the participant’s hosting experiences. The
interviews started with questions addressing matters such as
how the participant had first heard of Airbnb, whether he or
she had used Airbnb also as a guest, whether the
interviewee had experience of other hospitality-exchange
networks, and how any such experiences differed from
those related to Airbnb. These questions were followed by a
set of questions related to the participant’s motivations for
Airbnb hosting. The interview then proceeded to cover the
respondent’s presence on the Airbnb Web site, including
how he or she determined the price for the listing.
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1036
Participants were then invited to describe how they decided
which inquiries to accept and how they communicated with
guests before their stay. In addition, we asked questions
about the hospitality exchange itself, including how stays
were arranged; what kinds of things the participants felt
they needed to take into consideration when hosting
someone; and whether there had been any problematic,
troubling, or otherwise unsuccessful exchanges. Finally,
each participant was given an opportunity to bring up any
topics that he or she felt had been left out or been given too
little attention. Background information, such as the
participant’s age, level of education, and profession, along
with the estimated number of guests hosted so far, was
collected with a paper form at the end of the interview. The
forms were left to the end of the interview since our prior
interview experiences from Finland indicated that
beginning with demographic inquiries does not aid in
building a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere and might
even be interpreted as meddlesome.
The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed
verbatim. All interviews were conducted in Finnish; with
the exception of those of two participants who did not speak
Finnish and so were interviewed in English, instead.
Because the interviews were conducted primarily in
Finnish, most interview excerpts are translations from the
original Finnish transcripts. In the following, we refer to the
participants pseudonymously to protect their anonymity.
Analysis
We chose a qualitative interpretative approach for the study
in order to balance leveraging prior work with approaching
our research material in an explorative manner. While
Germann Molz’s conceptualization of network hospitality
and Simmel’s theorizing on sociability served as the main
theoretical frames for our study, the empirical analysis was
grounded in the research material [23], since we wanted to
foreground the participants’ perspectives and approach their
experiences of monetizing network hospitality in a
material-driven fashion.
We began the analysis by reading through the transcripts,
paying attention to any recurrent themes that could
elucidate our research problem. Through this initial
analysis, we identified four categories for use to frame our
further analysis. The first author coded all sections of the
interview transcripts that were interpreted as illustrating 1)
motivations underlying the practice of monetizing network
hospitality, 2) the role of money in the exchange process, 3)
the resulting host–guest interaction, and 4) the ways in
which hosts choose their guests. The excerpts containing
descriptions of the motives for participating in Airbnb as a
host were then open-coded, with a focus on the various
ways in which the participants described their hosting
motivations. The findings from this part of the analysis are
presented in the first part of the next section of the paper.
The other three categories were analyzed in detail and
compared to one another. This was done to uncover themes
characterizing the practice of Airbnb hosting, the resulting
sociality, and the role money plays in the two. We labeled
the resulting themes “sociability,” “selectivity,” and
“control.” They are presented in the latter subsection of the
next section.
FINDINGS
The presentation of our findings has two parts. Firstly, we
describe the intertwining of social and financial motives
underlying participants’ decision to monetize network
hospitality. Secondly, we discuss how the presence of
money plays into the emerging sociability and depict how
monetary transactions and the possibility of using pricing as
a tactic can help hosts to achieve desirable experiences.
Social and Financial Hosting Motivations
Our analysis shows that the financial gains Airbnb hosting
can provide are an important factor driving hosts’ participa-
tion. However, for most of our participants the money made
through Airbnb was not an indispensable part of total
income. Often, the money that was made by hosting was
not used for unavoidable living expenses; rather, it was seen
as a “nice extra” that could be used, for example, for travel.
For example, Pia, a 25-year-old woman who practiced
remote hospitality by renting out her two-room apartment
via Airbnb (while she was out of town), shared the
following account of how monetizing network hospitality
had allowed her to fund travel with her significant other:
Well, yeah, the money has been nice. I have already
funded a few of our trips with the money I’ve made this
way.” (Pia, 25)
Only one out of our 11 participants, 22-year-old Kaisa,
described the financial gains made by hosting visitors via
Airbnb as of significant financial importance personally.
She was a host who practiced remote hospitality by renting
out her room in a flat she shared with two roommates. She
recounted making efforts to rent her room out for at least a
few nights each month so that she could use the money she
made this way to cover some of her rent.
While a commonly cited reason for engaging in the practice
of monetizing network hospitality, the possibility of making
a profit was typically described as supplementary to the
social motives for engaging in network hospitality. These
included the opportunity to meet new people from around
the world and incorporating more social interaction or a
new kind of interaction into one’s life. For example, Ida and
Sami, a couple living a busy life with three children and
two full-time jobs, highly valued the novel sociality that
Airbnb hosting had brought to their lives. They practiced
on-site hospitality by renting out a private room in their
city-center flat. For them, receiving guests through Airbnb
functioned as a departure from the mundane rhythm of
everyday life. Hosting visitors provided a welcome
opportunity to engage in meaningful social interaction in a
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1037
manageable way, meaning that they could freely limit who
they would host, how frequently, and for how long:
“[…] if we would not do this, it could be even a bit dull
sometimes, you know, since our everyday life pretty much
consists of just working and taking kids to their hobbies and
so on. It can be quite hectic. [...] Since we have a family, we
can't just decide with Ida to, for example, go to a salsa
class to meet new people.” (Sami, 31)
In another example case, Alfonso, a 53-year-old foreigner
living and working in Helsinki, stressed the importance of
the social nature of network hospitality as a reason for
engaging in Airbnb hosting. For him, renting out a private
room in his two-room apartment was, in essence, a way to
meet new people, since his social circle in Helsinki was
relatively small and at times felt insufficient to him:
For me, it’s not that easy to meet people here in Helsinki.
Of course, I could go to a bar or something, but it’s not that
easy for people of my age to meet people like that. But
sometimes I have really nice conversations and moments
with my guests, people who are total strangers to me. I
think it’s similar to what happens when you are traveling.
You meet people on trains and airplanes, and it’s just easy
to connect with them.” (Alfonso, 53)
Moreover, two participants were initially prompted to
engage in Airbnb hosting by the monetary compensation for
hosting but then grew to appreciate the hosting as a social
practice, too, once they had accumulated more experience
of network hospitality. Tomi, 33, was a remote host who
rented out his investment apartment through Airbnb.
Therefore, he initially had a more straightforwardly
businesslike attitude to hosting than our other participants.
However, Tomi too noted that one reason he had been
pleased with his hosting arrangement was, indeed, the
possibility for pleasant sociable interaction with the guests.
Although Tomi practiced remote hospitality and did not
stay with the guests, he reported that at times he might
invite guests to take a little tour around the city with him:
“[...] there is always a potential of meeting people,
interesting people. […] [T]here have already been quite a
few guests whom I’ve really connected with and who have
been quite similar to me or have a mindset similar to mine.
(Tomi, 33)
Importantly, Tomi could freely choose when to initiate such
interaction, and he described doing so only when he felt
that he was likely to get along well with the guests and that
he might enjoy their company. Thus, although Tomi was
predominantly hosting for reasons other than the sociable
interaction that network hospitality can entail, he was able
to move away from the business-oriented mindset when he
so desired and engage in social interaction with guests. Of
course, whether the guests chose to take up his invitations
was always up to them, but at the time of the interview
Tomi’s experience had been satisfying.
Mikael, a 41-year-old professor, was prompted to engage in
Airbnb hosting by his wish to put the extra space he and his
family had in the basement of their apartment to better use
and to earn some money by doing so. His views on inter-
action with the guests were similar to those of Tomi. He
explained how, at the start of his time as a host, he had been
rather unsure of how it would feel to let a stranger into their
house, what would be an appropriate amount of interaction
with the guest, and what his guests would think of the
hosting arrangement. However, in the course of receiving
guests, it had turned out that he actually enjoyed hosting:
It has been nice to meet these people. I haven’t talked to
all of them an awful lot, but it has still been nice. This has
brought, like, this new sort of sociality to my life.” (Mikael,
41)
It is noteworthy that even some of the participants who
practiced remote hospitality appreciated the social nature of
the hosting. They found hosting socially enjoyable even
though they did not usually spend time with their guests
face to face, instead just preparing the apartment for the
guest’s arrival and then lodging somewhere else during the
guest’s stay. Despite the minimal in-person interaction
embedded in their hosting arrangements, some of these
hosts wanted to establish a host–guest relationship with
their guests. Often, this was accomplished through small
acts of hospitality such as making sure that the guests are
offered a little to eat when they arrive, or giving them
advice and recommendations on what to do during their
stay in the city. Pia was among those with this kind of
orientation towards remote hospitality:
I'll always try to think about how to make the guest’s stay
an unforgettable experience – you know, make them feel
like, “Wow!” [...]. I’ll make sure that there’s some fruit or
maybe some Finnish candy for the guests as they arrive,
and if I have time maybe I’ll leave some nice flowers on the
table.” (Pia, 25)
The hosts engaging in these acts of hospitality found it very
rewarding and pleasing if the acts were recognized and
acknowledged by the guests, either through the reviews
posted on the host’s Airbnb profile page or, considered
even better, by unofficial and more personal means such as
the leaving of a postcard or hand-written note for the host.
Pia described this:
These letters and notes that people leave here are the best.
Almost everyone has left a personal note or at least sent an
e-mail message in addition to the official review done
through the Web site.”
In a similar vein, Pertti described the personal hand-written
messages he had received from guests as one of the most
rewarding aspects of hosting, creating a sense of warmth:
One of the most gratifying things has been the personal
hand-written messages I have received from my guests.
Airbnb automatically reminds people to write the reviews,
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1038
but no one asks the guest to leave you a personal note. Also,
the occasions when I have received, for example, a text
message where the guests say that they [have] followed my
hint and gone to some restaurant or event I had suggested
for them are very nice. They give you a warm feeling.
(Pertti, 33)
Interestingly, these descriptions reveal that although the
terms of the exchange relation are negotiated beforehand,
the hosts very much appreciate informal acknowledgment
of their hospitality efforts. It thus seems that in monetized
network hospitality there still exists a residue of traditional
forms of hospitality exchange, as described for example in
ethnographic accounts of Mauss [16] and Malinowski [17],
in which exchange of material and symbolic gifts play an
important role in establishing and consolidating social ties
between groups and individuals.
In summary, even though the opportunity to monetize
network hospitality – that is, to make a financial profit by
offering hosting – was an important reason for the
participants’ engagement with Airbnb, the sociable
interaction that has been recognized as an important driver
of network hospitality in prior research was very visibly
present also in the accounts of our participants. These
findings complicate the narrative of how the inclusion of
monetary transactions in the hospitality-exchange process
affects the resulting social interactions, because they point
out that, at least some Airbnb hosts are driven to monetize
network hospitality not just because of the money they can
make but also because they find the sociality of the practice
pleasurable. In brief, the financial and social motivations
that drive individuals to monetize network hospitality need
not be contradictory with one another.
The Presence of Money in Network Hospitality
Our analysis indicates that the presence of money can
provide a helpful frame for network hospitality. It can
support hosts in their efforts to accomplish desired sociable
interaction, to choose guests selectively in line with their
preferences, and to control the volume and type of demand
from potential visitors.
Sociability
The social interaction that practicing network hospitality
spurs is an important reason for Airbnb hosting. Yet, among
our participants, none of the hosts who sought social
interaction with their guests talked about the sociality of
network hospitality within the framework of “making new
friends” or creating lasting or long-term social
relationships. Instead, participants described the sociality of
network hospitality more commonly in terms of enjoyable
and/or inspiring moments in which one can spend time with
interesting, previously unfamiliar people from around the
world and engage in intriguing conversations with them.
Participants reported enjoying these moments of social
interaction as such, but they did not expect that the
relationships with their guests would extend beyond the
guests’ visit. Alfonso used the following wording to
describe his feelings on the topic:
“We might have breakfast and dinner together and have
interesting conversations. It’s often really nice, but I
haven't kept in touch with any of them. […] I just haven’t
felt like it.” (Alfonso, 53)
This sociality that participants sought can be understood in
terms of sociability – a form of sociality that gains its value
from the interaction itself. Many of the participants reported
that they found the possibility of meeting interesting people
with diverse cultural backgrounds intriguing and rewarding:
You can actually meet some nice and interesting people
through hosting. […] For example, I got to meet this Italian
fashion designer as he stayed at my place. These kinds of
things are nice, because when you think about it, how on
earth could I’ve met this guy if he wouldn't have been my
guest? You can't just go and stop people on the street and
be like, ‘You look interesting. Would you like to hang out?’
(Kaisa, 22)
The hosts we interviewed often deemed the social
encounters with their guests enjoyable but still stated that
they had no inclination to extend those social relations
beyond the one-time, short-term hospitality exchange at
hand. The sociality of monetized network hospitality can,
therefore, be interpreted as a form of social “play” in which
participants engage for the sheer pleasure it brings, without
any expectation of it leading to more serious or lasting
social relationships. This echoes Simmel’s notion of
sociability, along with findings from prior research on
non-monetary network hospitality. The difference, though,
is that, alongside the value seen in sociability, there are
financial profits at stake for the hosts (and presumably for
the guests, too, for whom peer-to-peer accommodation is
often a cheaper alternative than staying in a hotel).
Selectivity
Our participants mentioned the opportunity to engage in
sociable interaction with people from around the world as a
key reason for practicing Airbnb hosting. However,
accomplishing the sociable interaction the hosts were
hoping for was not always a foregone conclusion. Time
constraints, differences in interests, or a sense of not really
seeing eye to eye with one’s visitors could get in the way of
shared moments of sociability.
For example, Kaisa, a host who reported subletting her
room via Airbnb a few times a month, expressed
enthusiasm for meeting new people through her practice of
monetizing network hospitality. Occasionally, she would
host Couchsurfers, too. However, she felt that hosting could
get tiresome if there was a mismatch in expectations
between the guest and the host. She explained that this
seemed to be more common in the case of non-monetary
network hospitality than when the practice was monetized
and hospitality came with a clear price tag:
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CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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The attitude is often that since you are charging these
people, they think that you should somehow be in the
background, whereas through Couchsurfing, [the guests]
ask you to be their guide or boyfriend or girlfriend or
whatever. It can sometimes be a bit annoying if you are not
really in the mood for that or you are just busy. Usually
people who come through Airbnb are a bit more
independent, and they don’t expect that much from you.
(Kaisa, 22)
We can see that, while the money Kaisa could make by
hosting Airbnb guests was important for her, she also felt
that, at times, monetizing network hospitality was
preferable because it made the hosting socially easier. Kaisa
was eager to socialize with her guests, but she wanted to do
it in accordance with her own preferences – that is,
selectively, when she felt like it and with those guests she
found interesting. This example indicates that monetary
transactions can contribute to the host’s sense of control,
and her/his comfort with, the hospitality exchange. This
may be because when hospitality exchange takes place in a
quid pro quo fashion, it is easier for the host to withdraw if
she/he feels that the social interaction with the guest is
becoming burdensome. It seems that when network
hospitality is monetized, the normal perceived obligation of
host–guest interaction is reduced somewhat. This relaxation
of a felt obligation to be sociable is echoed in the following
account from Tomi, who, in addition to Airbnb hosting, had
experience of being a guest through Couchsurfing:
“I think that in Couchsurfing both the host and the guest
are expected to show interest towards each other and to
spend some time together. In Airbnb, the guest is paying for
the accommodation, so (s)he is not expected or obliged to
socialize that much with the host. So this also means that if
the host wants to be more in the background, he can do
that. (Tomi, 33)
Many respondents received various inquiries from potential
guests, which often left them the opportunity to choose
which guests to accept from a pool of potential candidates.
In our participants’ accounts, the evaluation of potential
guests was based on the guests’ profiles, the reviews they
had received from prior exchanges, and the communication
that took place prior to accepting of the accommodation
request. Our participants emphasized how much they
valued the fact that they knew in advance who they were
going to be hosting. They felt that viewing a guest’s profile
gave them insight into what kind of person the guest would
be, and this allowed them to be intentional in choosing
which people to host:
The fact that you can choose who comes there is nice. I
just pretty much use my intuition in choosing the guests and
try to choose guests who seem nice, you know, so that I
might even spend some time with them if I feel like it.
(Tomi, 33)
Our participants made efforts to increase the likelihood of
an enjoyable hospitality exchange by deliberately selecting
guests they expected to be easy to host. Often this meant
selecting individuals who were in some respect similar to
the host him- or herself:
Mostly I choose to host young people, often students or
people who have quite recently graduated from a
university. […] They are easy to get along with, and often
we have something in common or are in a similar phase in
our lives. (Sophia, 22)
For the most part, our guests have been highly educated
and they are in interesting jobs. They are the kind of people
with whom it is easy for us to find some common ground,
and, therefore, the conversations have often been very
interesting.” (Sami, 31)
While these considerations are beyond the scope of this
study, it is necessary to point out that the guests can, of
course, make similar evaluations regarding potential hosts
as they look for a place to stay. Some participants
acknowledged this possibility and described how, to attract
guests with interests similar to theirs, they had included a
lot of information about themselves and their interests in
their profiles:
I try to give a good picture of who I am in the profile
because then the guest who is interested in staying at my
place will likely be a kind of person whom I am interested
in hosting. For example, I state here that I am not into
drinking or smoking and that I really like to talk to people.
And mostly the guests who end up at my place are quite
similar to me.” (Sophia, 22)
This tendency to look for and choose guests who are similar
to the host or who share his or her interests is in line with
Simmel’s reflections on the circumstances in which
sociable interaction is likely to occur. The similarity and
equal social standing of the interacting parties is a central
condition for sociable interaction. However, it is interesting
to find this tendency to homophily in a practice like
network hospitality, in which meeting people with different
cultural backgrounds plays a central role in igniting
participation in the first place.
Among our participants there were a few who openly stated
that they did not wish to host people from specific countries,
people of certain ethnicity, or people of a particular age.
Sophia explicitly stated that, because of previous bad
experiences of subletting, she chose not to host people from
India or “black people”. She went on to explain that she
knew that this kind of selectivity is “not a good thing” but
that she knowingly did it anyway, on account of the negative
experiences of subletting her room in previous apartments:
“[These experiences] have related to subletting my room in
my previous apartments. ’Cause I am a student and I’ve
been abroad quite a lot, I’ve had to sublet my room and it’s
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CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada
1040
annoying when you want to rent out a room and someone
just causes trouble all the time.” (Sophia, 22)
Similarly, Ida and Sami, Markku, and Pertti stated that they
were “maybe a bit more selective” when it came to
accepting Russian guests. However, they often expressed
awareness that this kind of discriminatory behavior is not
necessarily a good thing and that hey have tried to avoid
practicing it:
Well, if I think about who we have declined most, they’re
probably Russian people. We’ve hosted Russian guests, but
still I notice that I think twice before I accept. It’s a big and
diverse country, and I know I shouldn’t think this way, but
still...” (Ida, 35)
These expressions of discriminatory attitudes and behaviors
illustrate how, upon closer examination, the discourse of
taking part in network hospitality because of the wish to
engage in cosmopolitan cultural exchange by hosting
people from around the world may not be the whole story.
While the participants seemed to be truly motivated to meet
new people, they often preferred to host people who were
similar to them in some, or many, ways. As a result, the
networks of social encounters that network hospitality
fosters may not be as inclusive and boundary-spanning as
the hype around Airbnb and other similar services might
lead one to believe.
Control
Our analysis reveals that hosts do not determine the price
for their hospitality solely via profit-maximizing economic
thinking. Instead of always trying to find the optimal
“market price,” participants explained that they factor in
social considerations. These consisted of the type of guests
they wish to host, together with their expectations regarding
whom they can attract or avoid. Also, they depended on
how cheap or expensive an offering they wanted to make.
For example, Pia had priced her listing somewhat above
what she believed to be the average price for the type of
accommodation she was offering. She explained that she
chose to do this in order to keep out “troublemakers”:
I could sure get more guests if I would lower the price. [...]
But I've wanted to keep the price a bit high ’cause I want
to— How should I put it? Well, sort of reach a slightly
higher standard. So I want especially those guests to
contact me who are looking for an above-average place to
stay. Because I think this flat is quite nice and then I can
also go to a little extra effort of making sure that they have,
for example, some food waiting here as they arrive and so
forth. And maybe the higher price keeps the worst
troublemakers and exploiters away. (Pia, 25)
Similarly, Ida and Sami noted that one reason for their
guests having usually not been “regular backpackers” is that
the price they had set for their room was not from the lower
end of the spectrum:
Well, I have to admit that our place does not seem to draw
the usual backpacker-type travelers who are just trying to
manage with as small a budget as possible. On the
contrary, actually. Our guests have, for the most part, been
very educated people, bankers, architects, professors, and
so forth. [...] This is, of course, at least partly due to the fact
that the price we have set is not particularly cheap.” (Ida,
35)
In a contrasting example of pricing with social factors in
mind, some participants explained that they price their
properties below “the market price” in order to achieve a
situation wherein they have more options to choose from in
selecting those to host. This arrangement relies on the logic
that a lower price leads to larger numbers of inquiries from
potential guests. Pertti, 33, described the benefits of asking
for a price lower than what he could get as follows:
“[T]he good thing in keeping the price a bit low […] is that
you get to choose [the guests] […]. For the host, it is easier
that way. (Pertti, 33)
These examples show how monetizing network hospitality
is not a straightforward matter of maximizing profits. Our
participants were using their ability to determine the price
of hospitality to assert control over hosting situations. For
some, this meant asking a higher price to tempt certain
types of guests and discourage others, while other
participants expected that offering accommodation for a
lower price than they expected to be able to demand would
result in a generally more enjoyable hosting experience.
Finally, the degree to which hosts could use pricing as a
tactic for selecting guests and controlling demand was
dependent on how established their own reputation was on
the Airbnb platform. Many participants explained that they
had started with a lower price in order to attract visitors
early on and then hiked the price once they had accumulated
a good reputation through positive reviews from their guests.
DISCUSSION
Overall, our participants were motivated to monetize
network hospitality by acting as Airbnb hosts, both because
of the financial gains they could make and for the social
gratification they expected. Money was often the initial
driver of getting started with hosting, but over time the
social factors tended to gain in importance, even for some
hosts who earlier had not been interested in the sociability
that network hospitality can entail.
Money as a Frame for Network Hospitality
Our analysis indicates that the presence of money can
provide a helpful frame for network hospitality, supporting
hosts in their efforts to accomplish the desired sociability,
to select guests in line with their preferences, and to control
the volume and type of demand from potential visitors. The
presence of clear-cut monetary transactions may contribute
to hosts’ sense of control by making it easier for the
exchange partners to adopt a shared definition of the
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CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada
1041
exchange situation. This, in turn, is helpful in the
coordination of the entire exchange process.
Our findings indicate that the monetization of network
hospitality is not a simple story wherein the introduction of
monetary transactions leads to instrumental and calculative
social interaction between hosts and guests, as Simmel’s
[21] theorizing would suggest. Sociability, similar to that
observed in the context of non-monetary hospitality
exchange, can persist. The presence of money may even
contribute to the flourishing of voluntary, enjoyable
interaction that entails no sense of obligation and that, in
this, approaches Simmel’s ideal of pure sociability as a
valuable social form.
The presence of money has emerged as a central point of
contention in ongoing debates over the nature and potential
of the so-called sharing economy. On a higher structural
level, there certainly seems to exist much to reconcile
between the logics on which venture-backed peer-to-peer
platforms operate and the ethos of cosmopolitan sharing. It
is not the point of this paper to take a stance in that
discussion beyond articulating the experiences of individuals
who monetize network hospitality on a relatively small
financial scale and for whom the sociability between hosts
and guests is by no means a misplaced fantasy.
It is worthy of note that, in our study, even the hosts who
practiced remote hospitality and, accordingly, had little
in-person interaction with their guests still valued the social
aspects of hosting. This indicates that the act of trusting
strangers to stay in one’s home, making efforts to ensure
that they enjoy the stay, and receiving the occasional
hand-written note that acknowledges these efforts can
meaningfully contribute to a sense of connectedness and
cosmopolitanism. Our interviewees’ accounts point to a
similar imagination being at play for guests, as well, who
for their part strive for “authentic” experiences and value
the opportunity to stay in a “local” home, even if they meet
the hosts only in the passing. Yet, while our findings
indicate that the presence of money can be not only
harmless but even outright helpful for the sociable
interaction and sense of connection many seek in engaging
with network hospitality, this should not be taken as
alleviating the need for researchers, designers, and
policymakers to think critically about the implications
money may have for network hospitality and about the
effects that monetizing network hospitality may have on
neighborhoods, cities, and societies at large.
Homophily and Discrimination in Network Hospitality
In the context of network hospitality, there is an interesting
– and somewhat troubling – tension to the tendency to
homophily. People participate in network hospitality in order
to meet people from other cultures; they want to experience
certain “strangeness”. However, at the same time, they are
selective of which “strangers” to engage with, often opting
to host those who are in some way similar to them. From
Ciborra’s [5] point of view, this does not count as genuine
hospitality, as for him hospitality is behavior that reveals a
human effort to cope with the uncertainty and mystery of
hosting a stranger.
If network hospitality continues to gain ground as a form of
accommodation, homophily may become an increasingly
serious and problematic source of discrimination. In some
cases, our participants openly described discriminating
against potential guests who were members of particular
racial, ethnic, or age groups. Similarly, prior studies suggest
that people tend to favor those who are in some way similar
to them when making decisions on hospitality based on
viewing the profiles of potential guests or hosts [3].
Some have expressed concern that social network sites in
general increase this tendency to homophily. This may
create an “echo chamber effect” wherein the diversity of
one’s social interaction decreases as he or she interacts only
with similar others [2]. This has worrisome consequences
for those who, for one reason or another, are seen as less
desirable exchange partners. In a recent study, Edelman and
Luca [8] compared the prices that black and non-black
hosts charge for similar accommodations on Airbnb and
concluded that non-black hosts charge approximately 12%
more than black hosts. The authors suggest that this
highlights the prevalence of discrimination in online
marketplaces, revealing an important unintended
consequence in the process of selecting exchange partners.
An open question remains as to whether the monetary trans-
actions and the consequently lessened obligations for intense
socializing that characterize Airbnb hosting can create room
for increased openness to diversity in comparison to non-
monetary forms of hospitality exchange that rely on indirect
and implicit forms of reciprocity. It seems plausible that
those practicing remote hospitality might be more willing to
host strangers with whom they do not have a lot in common
as long as they feel sufficiently assured of the guests’
trustworthiness, while those who host on-site may be more
likely to select guests with whom they expect to achieve the
desired amount of sociability as comfortably as possible.
Since both hosts and guests can gain meaningful social
experiences from remote hospitality even when personal
interaction remains minimal, monetizing network hospitality
may, somewhat unexpectedly, promote experiences of
connectedness that would be less likely to occur in the
realm of non-monetary network hospitality that tends to
entail an expectation of intense social interaction.
Limitations
There are several limitations to this study that must be
acknowledged. Firstly, we make no claims of
generalizability to Airbnb hosts, whether at large or within
the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, where the interviews were
conducted. It is important to bear in mind that Airbnb
hosting can take on different social roles in different
geographical and cultural settings, varying with, for
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CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada
1042
instance, the population density of the area and the price of
housing, both of which affect the type of space hosts are
likely to have available in a given region and the type of
hosting they can practice. Comparisons across such settings
are beyond the scope of this paper, but we will reflect on
their importance when outlining topics for future research.
Secondly, we cannot control for the self-selection bias that
may exist in our study: For instance, it is possible that those
with especially positive experiences of Airbnb hosting were
more likely to take part. However, the aim of the study was
to explore hosts’ motivations for monetizing network
hospitality and to gain insight into how they conceive of the
resulting sociality and the ways in which the presence of
money ties in with it. We regard this study as an important
first step in understanding aspects of network hospitality –
and “the sharing economy” more broadly – in which
monetary transactions are an integral and visible part of the
practice.
Avenues for Future Research
We call for further research to map out the diversity of
experiences related to monetizing network hospitality.
These are likely to range from occasional hosting in one’s
primary home, as was seen with most of our participants, to
more or even fully professionalized forms of making a
profit by leveraging the opportunities that Airbnb and other,
similar platforms provide. The volume of hosting, the
importance of the income or savings involved for those
engaging in the practice, and the degree of professionalism
on the part of the hosts are but some of the factors that
indicate the circumstances in which network hospitality is
practiced. Future research should consider variations in the
social role of hosting and the ways in which it is reflected in
the resulting social interactions between hosts and guests,
taking into account the life situations of the participants, the
nature of the hosting location (urban/suburban/rural), the
type of hospitality offered (remote/on-site), and cultural
differences. The meanings and implications of monetizing
network hospitality are likely to be diverse. This should be
considered as the debate surrounding network hospitality
and the “sharing economy” moves forward.
Furthermore, to complement our findings, it would be
important to examine the perspective of Airbnb guests in
depth to understand how they perceive the significance of
monetary transactions in network hospitality and, for
instance, the issues around selecting potential hosts and
negotiating hospitality with them. One fruitful pathway for
this would be to explore experiences of individuals who
cross over between roles, acting as both guests and hosts.
Moreover, some of our participants had experience of both
Airbnb and Couchsurfing so that they were able to weigh
the impact of monetization on network hospitality. Yet
targeted, systematic comparison of exchange processes
between systems of monetary and non-monetary exchange
could benefit the field greatly, as could historically
grounded analysis of earlier, even paper-based, forms of
hospitality exchange and homestays. Also, as a part of the
comparative endeavor, it would be helpful to examine the
complex dynamics of how different types of reciprocation
intertwine and play out in the course of hospitality-
exchange processes. Finally, in drawing conclusions on the
nature of network hospitality, when monetized or
otherwise, we must critically and openly examine the
diversity of experiences and granularity involved.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We wish to thank Docent Juha Koivisto from University of
Helsinki for his valuable advice and support. Moreover, we
wish to acknowledge both our participants and our pilot
interviewees. This study would not have been possible
without their contributions. The research was funded with
the support of the TEKES project FuNeSoMo, together
with grants from Emil Aaltonen foundation and KAUTE
foundation. Finally, we are thankful for our HIIT colleagues
as well as the anonymous reviewers whose feedback helped
us improve the paper significantly.
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Location, Location, Location
CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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... Many people join as Uber drivers to provide additional earnings to supplement their main income and become financially independent (Berger et al., 2018). Hosts rent out their homes in Airbnb, or other short-term rental platforms to supplement rents or mortgages (Ikkala and Lampinen, 2015;Jefferson-Jones, 2014). According to a study by Farrell et al. (2018), many of these workers still have their traditional source of income (according to the study in the US), where earnings from platforms account for around 54% of observed total income for active workers and 20% for occasional workers. ...
... (a) Airbnb web interface for hosts (b) Airbnb web interface for guests Based on a study by Ikkala and Lampinen (2015), the monetary reason is the biggest motivation for joining the Airbnb platform especially to supplement high rent or mortgage prices. Figure 3.2a shows the landing page for hosts and the first information provided is the possible income per-month by renting their place via the Airbnb platform. ...
... Unlike other platforms who control their price algorithms, such as Uber, Airbnb only suggests a price to hosts, but the final decision on the price depends on each host (Gibbs et al., 2018b). Thus, the pricing for Airbnb listings is very versatile because they are entirely dependent on the hosts who sometimes set up inefficient pricing to attract more guests (Ikkala and Lampinen, 2015). Although it increases flexibility, this method also comes with a drawback as most hosts do not have the capability to calculate optimum pricing for their listings. ...
Conference Paper
This research contributes to advancing our knowledge on the topical issue of the proliferating use of digital platforms, specifically the home-sharing platform, Airbnb. The aim is to answer the research question of how to measure possible impacts stemming from the adaptation of Airbnb as a form of digital platform economy. A set of various spatial analysis methods and a predictive model were constructed utilising novel datasets such as Airbnb accommodation data and Zoopla rental price data, as well as open government datasets such as dwelling types, housing tenure, and points of interest. This gave rise to a set of methods and results that are four-fold. On the one hand, the spatial distribution and temporal trends, is analysed using the space time cube. These findings show that for London and San Francisco, Airbnb tend to be centrally located, favouring residential areas. In addition, this method also shows the seasonality of the use of the platform. Secondly, using Geographically Weighted Regression (GWR) and the multi-scale form of GWR, it is possible to look at the local scale and the influencing factors for Airbnb locations, and the thesis shows that these are related to functional elements such as hotels, food and beverages availability, and access to public transport links. Thirdly, how Airbnb may be disrupting the housing system by exacerbating the already problematic condition posed by the housing crisis in London is explored. To do this, the focus is shifted onto Airbnb misuse, defined from entire property listings that do not conform with the local regulation, and we look at the relation between those listings and residential areas that are experiencing rapid rental price changes. These changes are measured by extracting the difference in rents for certain years based on the Zoopla longitudinal data. The results conclude that indeed, there is a linear relationship between them, indicating that Airbnb might be putting pressure on housing provision. Lastly, a gravity model is constructed to forecast possible future locations for Airbnb. These are determined in terms of proximity to touristic locations, the historical Airbnb supply, and rental prices. The estimated Airbnb rental distribution based on the model follows a similar distribution to the actual rent derived from Zoopla rental price data. This last outcome suggests that prime Airbnb locations are often located in highly-priced residential neighbourhoods. These often are prime areas for residential location, that now have competing interests with Airbnb conversion. Overall, this thesis provides an analytical perspective that can prompt a conversation on best practices which mitigate the adverse impact of over-saturated short-term rental adaptation in urban settings. Keywords: Platform economy, Airbnb, Zoopla, tourism, housing, gravity model.
... Consumers are initially attracted to Airbnb and subsequently provide accommodation largely because the price level generates revenues that can substantially increase the financial return on their real estate assets [23,29,30]. This is due to cost savings derived from the management structure Airbnb provides [11], and also because Airbnb affords consumers who host accommodation greater opportunities to justify their price levels according to the experiential aspects of their value propositions, since private houses and services offer greater flexibility and more authentic tourism experiences, and infuse a stronger sense of engagement and community [31]. In addition, the extent of the digital marketplace, as well as Airbnb's brand awareness and reputation, makes it highly appealing to potential accommodation guests. ...
... Understanding specific behavioral patterns for pricing strategies among peers-whereby prices should be high enough to entice consumers to offer accommodation, but low enough to draw potential guests-is crucial to understanding the co-creation of value on Airbnb [32]. Airbnb's popularity relies not on the provision of the cheapest accommodation [31], but rather on prices that justify the value proposition because they are in line with the attributes and functionalities of the accommodation and offer greater value than competing options. However, despite the growing body of literature on the topic yielding some significant evidence, research to date is still inconclusive, tending to merge results for consumers who share and host accommodation on Airbnb with findings related to business operators who run their Airbnb listings in a fully professional capacity and are not a good fit with the peer-to-peer marketing model. ...
Article
Full-text available
Peer-to-peer, two-sided digital marketplaces are reshaping the way in which consumers exchange products and interact with brand value propositions, particularly in the travel and tourism industry. Within the dynamics of these marketplaces, pricing approaches are of the utmost importance; yet, in contrast to conventional digital marketplaces, prices are set by non-professional vendors who are also consumers. We contribute to research on the topic by examining pricing within a single peer-to-peer, two-sided marketing platform: Airbnb. We use a large dataset covering accommodation listed by non-professional hosts in Barcelona, Spain. We identify a range of intrinsic and extrinsic attributes of the value propositions of Airbnb peer-to-peer accommodation, which enables us to explain differences in price levels. The paper offers evidence that higher accommodation prices are best explained by guests' preference for the intrinsic functional qualities of the value proposition; and that the systematic interaction of valence and volume of online reviews can produce a crucial impact on pricing.
... 018;COCOLA-GANT u. GAGO 2019;GARCÍA-HERNÁNDEZ et al. 2020;ROBERTSON et al. 2020). Auch zur komplexen Motivlage von Airbnb-Nutzer*innen liegen bereits einige Studien vor ERT et al. 2016;PEZENKA et al. 2017;GUTTENTAG et al. 2018). Bisher weniger beleuchtet wurden die Beweggründe der über Airbnb inserierenden Gastgeber*innen (STORS u. KAGERMEIER 2017;IKKALA u. LAMPINEN 2015;HELLWIG et al. 2014;BELK et al. 2014;. Hier knüpft der vorliegende Beitrag an und fokussiert zum einen auf den Aspekt des Teilens als soziale Praktik, konkret inwieweit diese bei den Motiven der Gastgeber*innen noch eine Rolle spielt (MALAZIZI et al. 2018). Zum anderen interessieren die Vermietungspraktiken der Gastgeber*innen und wie di ...
Article
Full-text available
Urban tourists look increasingly for authenticity and everyday experiences to collect. This trend includes the search for overnight accommodation in local private houses. This paper analyzes Hosts' motivation to make available their houses for guests. By focusing on the interplay of short term rentals as a part of Sharing Economy and the Foucauldian idea of regime and biopolitics we expand the literature on touristification and housing. Findings highlight the power of Airbnb (Airbnb Regime) as a corporate landlord which negotiates on hosts commodifying housing into accommodation for visitors. We focus specifically on non-professional hosts, and work on the idea of power and regime to explore the interlinked narrative of Airbnb regulations, and the practices of hosts. We found that the platform outsources many tasks, makes hosts co-producers of guest's experiences and at the same time acts on host's self-perception of sharing. Individual hosts incorporate not entirely the discourse and behavior of being a good host according to the Airbnb's imperative but norms and requisites set by the platform promote professional hosts rather than individual ones. Therefore, Airbnb is not about sharing but rather an exchange capitalistic platform that furthers the commodification of housing.
... A very recent trend is the sharing of physical possessions, initially rooms and apartments (e.g., Airbnb), but more recently also rides (Uber), cars (Getaround), and household items (Snapgoods). Several researchers studied such sharing economy services, in particular motivations to participate [Bellotti et al., 2015;Ikkala and Lampinen, 2015]. Lampinen [2014] studied users on couchsurfing.com, ...
... However, because host-guest interactions go beyond the direct material exchange of the home, social interactions evolve in the frame of sociability (Simmel, 1949), where money plays a role in structuring these social relationships. The social value of Airbnb, and meeting people similar to them, is found to be of great importance for hosts (Ikkala & Lampinen, 2015 ). ...
Article
In peer-to-peer (P2P) accommodation settings such as Airbnb, social interactions and commercial motives blur the exchange experience between hosts and guests. This study focuses on the blurred experiences and how these are managed in the confines of the shared Airbnb home. Drawing upon the ideology of modern Romanticism, this study seeks to understand the dynamics through which the dualities of Home Sharing (HS) experiences take place. This work is based on an ethnographic study of Airbnb in New Zealand. Data involved in-depth interviews, participant observation, brief informal discussions on-site and archival data. This study explains how hosts and guests construct a shared romantic fantasy to re-engage with the natural world, human nature and create a new paradigm of HS in a simulated sharing experience to help them cope with tensions between social and commercial motives. This research sheds light on the management of conflicting ethics behind sharing and exchange, providing theoretical and practical implications for the P2P accommodation experience.
... However, sharing economy accommodation has distinctive attributes compared to hotels, mainly due to its residential housingbased service. These unique features make it challenging to apply the conventional understanding of the hospitality industry on the value recognition of users [9][10][11][12]. For example, the star rating system based on user reviews has limited influence on the price of Airbnb listings, unlike the hotel industry, while indirect signals such as the service duration and personal information of the hosts are considered as alternative sources for the trust and significant influence on the price [9,13]. ...
Article
Full-text available
A sharing economy accommodation service like Airbnb, which provides trust between strangers to connect them for profiting from underutilized assets, was born and has thrived thanks to the innovations in the platform technology. Due to the unique structure of Airbnb, the pricing strategies of hosts are very different from the conventional hospitality industry. However, existing Airbnb pricing studies have limitations considering the varying scale of operation among hosts, spatial variances in pricing strategies, and crucial geographic information for estimating the influence of the pricing variables, as well as ignoring inter-city variances. In this research, we explored the spatially heterogeneous relationship between price and pricing variables using an innovative spatial approach, Multiscale Geographically Weighted Regression (MGWR). Analysis results for Airbnb listing in Log Angeles and New York in the US showed the effectiveness of MGWR regarding estimating the influence of pricing variables spatially. By revealing spatially heterogeneous and dependent relationships, this research fills gaps in Airbnb pricing research and deepens the understanding of the pricing strategies of the hosts.
... The reason for this is that, in most cases, hosts who rent private or shared rooms are hosts performing the activity in their own home (although in some cases it can also be apartments which are permanently rented on Airbnb, but by room and not as entire apartments). In contrast, in many cases the entire apartments rented out are nobody's private residence, and this is therefore a form of 'remote hospitality' (Ikkala & Lampinen, 2015). For this analysis, 'Shared rooms' will not be taken into account, since they only represent 1.44% of all Airbnb listings. ...
Article
Full-text available
‘Claudia’ is neither a real name nor an owner who puts a room at the service of the collaborative economy. It is a pseudonym used by a transnational company which manages short-rentals apartments: 211 Airbnb listings in Madrid, 138 of which are in the city centre. This paper's main arguments are based on the fact that Madrid city centre is experiencing a process of airbnbisation which is driven by professional actors specialized in the short-term rental business. The analysis of this model includes an in-depth examination of the professionalization, concentration and monopolization of Airbnb in Madrid, from a temporal and territorial perspective. The paper concludes that Airbnb in Madrid is dominated by professional actors specialized in the business of renting apartments as short-term rentals, who mainly operate within the city's Central District, and whose activity does not comply with the principles of the sharing economy. This model has more to do with traditional forms of accommodation than with new hospitality models based on the sharing economy principles, and generates negative impacts on the economic sustainability of the city and its inhabitants.
Article
This review article (1) creates a knowledge map reflecting key areas of academic insight into the phenomenon of paid online peer-to-peer accommodation, (2) synthesizes these insights, and (3) points to regions on the knowledge map which require our attention in the future. This article also launches the Annals of Tourism Research Curated Collection on peer-to-peer accommodation networks, which contains past and hot off the press work on the topic and will continue to grow as new articles on the topic appear in Annals
Chapter
The development of urban vacation rentals has caused three contradictions to obfuscate the academic and the social debate. This chapter discusses the contradictions between commercial and ‘sharing’ and between centralised and spreading as promoted by the marketing narrative of market leader platform Airbnb, but not supported by data on urban vacation rental performance. This has caused analyses of consumer motivations, growth dynamics and of the impact of these urban vacation rentals, as well as policies designed to reduce the negative externalities of the phenomenon, to be partly inspired by diffuse concepts as ‘living like a local’, utopian community ideas and ‘going off the beaten track’. A third conceptual contradiction refers to the nature of ‘homesharing’ tourism: the discourse that links ‘sharing’ with authenticity is based on the first two unjustified claims. Therefore, the tourist that apparently seeks greater authenticity contributes to its destruction, and to the commodification of urban neighbourhoods. The conclusion of this chapter is that urban vacation rentals do not only contribute quantitatively to overtourism —by increasing visitor numbers—, but also qualitatively, through the replacement of resident oriented services in neighbourhoods, such as housing and retail, by services targeting visitors.
Article
Full-text available
Airbnb’s disruptive impacts on tourism destinations have been well acknowledged but systematic examination is still lacking. This study investigates these impacts on host communities from the perspectives of tourism destination stakeholders including Airbnb hosts, traditional accommodation providers, local residents and policy makers in Queenstown, New Zealand. Underpinned by social representation theory, the results of fourteen semi-structured interviews confirm the complexity of Airbnb growth, which is characterised by multiple and conflicting interests, and potential paradoxes in destination management policies. This research highlights the advantage of using multiple stakeholder perspectives by providing a more holistic and critical understanding of Airbnb’s impacts and offers a starting point to inform the on-going debate regarding sustainable tourism development in destinations with globally disruptive entities.
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter offers a social anthropological view of hospitality. An opening section briefly considers the purpose and social function of hospitality and then offers some comparative historical and ethnographic material on the subject. Some preliminary comments are made about the social, ritual and cognitive structures within which acts of hospitality are carried out. A second section considers the importance to the practice of hospitality of food. This is illustrated and developed mainly from one ethnographic example, and the chapter ends by returning to more general themes of hospitalitfs structural organization.
Book
This book argues for the centrality of Georg Simmel's social theory to the relational and processual emphases that are often considered as much more recent developments in social theory. Situating Simmel's work in particular with respect to New Vitalism and Bruno Latour's work, the book shows that Simmel has still an enormous amount to contribute.
Book
The concept of ‘mobility’ has sparked lively academic debate in recent years. Drawing on research from the fields of anthropology, geography, sociology and tourism studies, this volume examines the intersection between mobility and hospitality, highlighting the issues that emerge as we encounter strangers in a mobile world. Through a series of diverse empirical accounts, it focuses on the transnational movement of people in the contexts of migration and tourism and examines how hospitality serves as a way of promoting and policing encounters, questioning how these relations are marked by exclusion as well as inclusion, and by violence as well as by kindness. In addition to exploring the power relations between mobile populations (hosts and guests) and attitudes (hospitality and hostility), the book also examines spaces of hospitality and mobility, such as cities, hotels, clubs, cafes, spas, asylums, restaurants, homes and homepages. In doing so, it makes a significant contribution to the political and ethical dimensions of mobile social relations. © Jennie Germann Molz and Sarah Gibson 2007. All rights reserved.
Article
For a couple of decades now, both higher education providers and industrial organizations in English speaking countries have used ‘hospitality’ to describe a cluster of service sector activities associated with the provision of food, drink and accommodation. Reflecting changes in the industrial descriptor used by practitioners, both academic and industry journals have adopted the notion that hospitality was a term which better described activities which had previously been known as hotel and catering . The academic community have increasingly used ‘hospitality’ in degree course titles, and in several countries, educators describe their professional association using this term. Without wishing to explore the emergence of hospitality and its appeal to both practitioners and academics, it does open up potential avenues for exploration and research about hospitality which hotel and catering discourages. That said, the current research agenda and curriculum could still be described as hotel and catering under a new name. It is the contention of this chapter that the topic of hospitality is worthy of serious study and could potentially better inform both industrial practice and academic endeavour.
Article
The growing popularity of online hospitality exchange networks like Couchsurfing and Airbnb point toward a new paradigm of sociality for a mobile and networked society as hospitable encounters among friends and strangers become entangled with social media and networking technologies. Inspired by Andreas Wittel’s notion of ‘network sociality’, this paper introduces the concept of ‘network hospitality’ to describe the kind of sociality that emerges around these new mobile, peer–to–peer, and online–to–off–line social networks. This article discusses five key features of network hospitality — sharing with strangers, feeling like a guest, engineering randomness, pop–up assemblages, and guests without hosts — and illustrates how network hospitality is implicated in the way people now ‘do togetherness’ online, off–line, and in between.
Article
This article introduces a collection of ethnographies that develop innovative theoretical and methodological approaches to CouchSurfing.com, a free online hospitality exchange network. The growing popularity of CouchSurfing poses significant questions about the way hospitality is performed in an era of digital communications, online social networking and alternative travel. The studies in this issue bring fresh insights to the sociological and cultural significance of hospitality in a networked world by offering detailed accounts of the new possibilities and new problems that emerge when complete strangers encounter one another online and accommodate one another offline. This article introduces the concept of 'network hospitality' to highlight some of the features that make CouchSurfing and similar social networking sites such a compelling topic of research for critical hospitality studies.
Article
Online marketplaces often contain information not only about products, but also about the people selling the products. In an effort to facilitate trust, many platforms encourage sellers to provide personal profiles and even to post pictures of themselves. However, these features may also facilitate discrimination based on sellers’ race, gender, age, or other aspects of appearance. In this paper, we test for racial discrimination against landlords in the online rental marketplace Airbnb. Using a new data set combining pictures of all New York City landlords on Airbnb with their rental prices and information about quality of the rentals, we show that non-black hosts charge approximately 12% more than black hosts for the equivalent rental. These effects are robust when controlling for all information visible in the Airbnb marketplace. These findings highlight the prevalence of discrimination in online marketplaces, suggesting an important unintended consequence of a seemingly-routine mechanism for building trust.