Online Vacation rentals engagement:Tourists´ and Owners´s Algarve representation.
The Algarve is very well positioned in vertical social networks, particularly in the online vacation rental segment. This research assesses the potential of new forms of distribution and promotion of online vacation rentals, as the way to minimize the unknown risk the rental market comprises. Social exchange theory supports our understanding regarding the construction of social representations shaped on one-to-one relations established between owners and tourists. Social representations of properties, investment decisions and tourist experiences are explored in order to characterize the owner-tourist engagement. This research is exploratory in its essence and attempts to enrich the level of knowledge of this long tail market through the analysis of content and descriptions posted an online platform – ownersDirect about the Algarve destination. Textual analysis is used to explore these testimonies and descriptions, including the use of a corpus linguistics software program (NVivo v.10).This vacation rental platform is firmly embedded in a culture of connectivity, sharing contents based on the sense of achievement of mutual benefits. The qualitative feedback from our study reaffirms that the Algarve’s sense of place is a non-static concept. The results suggest that togetherness, relaxation, continuity and place attachment are the most highlighted points when announcing or giving testimony about properties in the Algarve properties. Tourists and owners “identified” along this research were mostly foreign citizens, most of them from Anglo-Saxon countries. The collaboration and the innovative use of online vacation rentals facilitate a new positioning of the destination that may be adopted to redefine Algarve strategies and create guidelines for new strategies to minimize the risk of choosing a property instead of a brand recognized hotel. This research demystifies a new market trend in tourism that is still engrained in some prejudice and unsafety.