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You never know what you will get in an Airbnb: Poor communication destroys value for guests



This study explores the antecedents of value co-destruction in the context of a new form of accommodation, Airbnb. Data were gathered using semi-structured interviews from people who had stayed in Airbnb accommodations during the previous 12 months. A total of 21 interviews were conducted, of people representing five nationalities. Using the grounded theory approach, the findings indicate that poor communication between the guest and host was one of the main reasons contributing to value co-destruction during the Airbnb accommodation experience. From the guest perspective, value co-destruction due to poor communication resulted in unexpected resource losses, including time and money. One interviewee also regretted the lost experience. Although the majority of the interviewees did not have negative Airbnb accommodation experiences, some did not experience a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship.
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Current Issues in Tourism
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You never know what you will get in an Airbnb:
poor communication destroys value for guests
Erose Sthapit & Jano Jiménez-Barreto
To cite this article: Erose Sthapit & Jano Jiménez-Barreto (2018): You never know what you will
get in an Airbnb: poor communication destroys value for guests, Current Issues in Tourism, DOI:
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Published online: 15 May 2018.
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You never know what you will get in an Airbnb: poor
communication destroys value for guests
Erose Sthapit
and Jano Jiménez-Barreto
Department of Marketing, University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland;
Department of Finance and Marketing Research,
Business Studies, College of Economics and Business Administration, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain
This study explores the antecedents of value co-destruction in the context
of a new form of accommodation, Airbnb. Data were gathered using semi-
structured interviews from people who had stayed in Airbnb
accommodations during the previous 12 months. A total of 21
interviews were conducted, of people representing five nationalities.
Using the grounded theory approach, the findings indicate that poor
communication between the guest and host was one of the main
reasons contributing to value co-destruction during the Airbnb
accommodation experience. From the guest perspective, value co-
destruction due to poor communication resulted in unexpected resource
losses, including time and money. One interviewee also regretted the
lost experience. Although the majority of the interviewees did not have
negative Airbnb accommodation experiences, some did not experience
a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship.
Received 26 February 2018
Accepted 8 May 2018
Value co-destruction; sharing
economy; Airbnb; poor
communication; well-being
The concept of value co-creation has been increasingly applied to the tourism and hospitality indus-
try (Chathoth, Ungson, Harrington, & Chan, 2016). However, the concept of value co-destruction does
not follow this trend and still requires more research (Plé, 2017). In addition, few studies have focused
on the antecedents of value co-destruction (Prior & Marcos-Cuevas, 2016). Value co-destruction is
defined as an interaction process between service systems that results in a decline in at least one
of the systems wellbeing(Plé & Cáceres, 2010, p. 431). In other words, either the service provider
or customer experiences frustration or lost resources (Prior & Marcos-Cuevas, 2016).
The current study focuses on accommodation because, today, more accommodation service-
providers have shifted their focus from service-delivery to experience co-creation (Chathoth et al.,
2016). While research in the experience and value co-creation field has examined service-provi-
dercustomer relationships (Chathoth et al., 2016), few have focused on hostguest interactions
(Smaliukiene, Chi-Shiun, & Sizovaite, 2015). Experience co-creation also applies to a new form of
accommodation, Airbnb, which is a successful models of the sharing economy that enables hosts
to list and rent out their available accommodations, usually at cheaper rates that save guests
money (Varma, Jukic, Pestek, Shultz, & Nestorov, 2016). Recent studies on the sharing economy
have investigated its benefits in hospitality and other sectors (Smaliukiene et al., 2015), while
Airbnb-specific studies have mostly focused on its commercial aspects (Guttentag, 2015). Given
that value is determined individually by a concerned actor (Vargo & Lusch, 2008) and that in, an
accommodation-service environment, the host predefines both product and service bundles,
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Erose Sthapit,
which is contrary to value co-creation (Binkhorst & Den Dekker, 2009), little is known about the value
co-destruction practices that occur when guests and hosts interact. This poses an interesting and
largely unexplored question: What are the antecedents of value co-destruction in the context of
Airbnb from a guests perspective?
Data collection and analysis
The goal of this study is to explore the antecedents of value co-destruction in the context of
Airbnb. The methodological design includes qualitative data collected through semi-structured
interviews. The interviews were conducted in Spain and Finland as part of a larger study. All
the interviews were conducted in Spanish and English during September and October 2017,
and lasted 5060 min. The sampling criterion for the selection of interviewees was limited to
people who had stayed in Airbnb accommodations during the previous 12 months. The first infor-
mants were recruited using a personal contact who fulfilled the sampling criterion. Given that
potential interviewees were hard to locate for data collection, once interviewed, the interviewees
were asked whether they knew of anyone else with the required characteristics who could be
recruited for an interview. Such snowball sampling relies on referrals from the initial subjects
to identify additional subjects (Breakwell, Hammond, & Fife-Schaw, 2000).
The current study initially recruited eight interviewees for individual, semi-structured pilot inter-
views in September 2017. The pilot interviews lasted 5060 min and aimed to identify key themes
and issues related to their Airbnb accommodation experiences. These pilot interviews led to the
development of an interview guide for subsequent interviews.
The final semi-structured interviews consisted of open-ended questions in three sections. The first
section focused on demographics, while the second section included six questions about the inter-
vieweesAirbnb accommodation experiences. One question specifically dealt with negative Airbnb
accommodation experiences and their causes. The third section included one question about the
intervieweespositive memories of their Airbnb accommodation experiences. The interviewees
were instructed to avoid dichotomous answers and to provide detailed narratives about their
Theoretical saturation was achieved with the 21st interviewee, given that no new codes occurred
in the data and repeated codes did not generate any new emergent themes. Marshall (1996)
suggested that researchers should be flexible in their approach to sampling and that an adequate
sample size is one that sufficiently answers the research question (Kvale, 1996). Grounded theory
research design (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was used for data analysis. The study employed three
types of coding: open coding, axial coding, and selective coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). For
grounded theory, Creswell (1998) suggested 2030 interviews, with 15 being the smallest acceptable
sample for qualitative studies (Bertaux, 1981).
The findings are reported based on a subset of the data, in particular, negative Airbnb accommo-
dation experiences and their causes. Among 21 interviewees, 15 were female and six were male.
Their ages ranged from 23 to 46 years. The intervieweesoccupations were diverse, as were their
household structures, which included both single and married individuals. The interviewees rep-
resented five nationalities: Spanish (13), German (3), Mexican (2), Finnish (1) and French (2).
Among the 21 interviewees, nine had negative Airbnb accommodation experiences. Using the
grounded theory approach, the findings identified poor communication between the guest and
host as a source of value co-destruction during the Airbnb accommodation experience. Table 1
illustrates the interpretive codes around the significance of poor communication contributing to
negative Airbnb accommodation experiences.
The intervieweesuse of words such as disappointing,werent happy,we could have had better
memories,limitation,frustrated,stressed,very frustratedand angrywere linked to negative
emotions, dissatisfaction and loss of well-being (Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999). This is further
highlighted by the responses of three interviewees who had negative Airbnb accommodation
We had some communication problem[s] with our host. During our stay, our shower was broken. We notified the
host via WhatsApp, but he said we had to wait a day to solve the situation. The next day, the host did not appear,
so in the end, the shower problem remained during our whole stay. In addition, [on the] last day, the host wrote
us to say that we had to leave the apartment at a specific hour. (Anne, female, German)
A bad memory was the host communication, especially because the rst day we couldntnd him
at the specic hour of arrival. Finally, he came one hour later to give us the keys to the at. We were
disappointed(Ana, female, Spanish).
On the day of check-in, my host did not come or answer my messages and calls. I felt very frustrated. I stayed in a
hostel that night. The next day, he sent me a message saying he was sorry, and we agreed to meet at 1 pm that
day. I went there and waited and waited. No answer. He was three hours late You never know what you will
experience in an Airbnb. I will prefer to stay in a hotel next time. (Claire, female, French)
Hosting on Airbnb involves communicating with guests, and when the intervieweesfelt that their
hosts were incommunicative, they experienced some degree of service failure and being devalued as
a customer. Besides appealing to guests physically, emotionally and intellectually, on-site accommo-
dation experiences also contain a social component, as they foster interpersonal interaction (Preben-
sen & Foss, 2011). In this context, poor service in terms of communication can easily lead to negative
experiences (Pine & Gilmore, 1998). Moreover, communication can establish trust between the host
and guest and minimize uncertainty (Guttentag, 2015).
The study contributes to previous work on value co-destruction (Plé, 2017; Smaliukiene et al., 2015)
and the sharing economy (Guttentag, 2015) by revealing that the core Airbnb notion of value
co-creation through a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship (Vargo, Maglio, & Akaka,
2008) does not always hold true. Poor communication between the Airbnb guest and host leads
to value co-destruction. Value co-destruction, from the Airbnb guests perspective, results in unex-
pected resource losses, in time, money and experience. Some Airbnb guests continued their
efforts (by telephone or email) to reclaim lost resources, incurring additional losses of energy (i.e.
in time, money, and physical and emotional effort). Five interviewees complained about waiting
for the host.
This study calls for a shift in the Airbnb hosts role, from cheap rental accommodation providers to
active value co-creators. The findings suggest that hosts should actively interact with the guests,
check them in, answer questions and deal with problems that are linked to the accommodation to
Table 1. The coding process in practice.
Open coding (line-by-line coding)
Subthemes (axial
coding) Main themes (selective coding)
communication problem,cold welcome,something wrong
with his instructions,host did not respond to our request,
couldnt find him at the specific hour of arrival,language barrier
with host,we received no reply,my host did not come and
answer my messages and calls,had to call the host four to five
times,received no reply,no answer, language problem
Poor communication Poor communication is an
antecedent of value co-
make their stays worthwhile. Communication should be considered as a value dimension and an
operant resource (skill) to co-create value. Lastly, those who are poor communicators should not
host on Airbnb.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
This work of Erose Sthapit was supported by Etelä-Pohjanmaan Rahasto [Grant Number 2017]; The work of Jano
Jiménez Barreto was supported by Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Competitiveness: [Grant Number
Erose Sthapit
Jano Jiménez-Barreto
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Since the introductory article for what has become known as the “service-dominant (S-D) logic of marketing,” “Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing,” was published in the Journal of Marketing (Vargo, S. L., & Lusch, R. F. (2004a)), there has been considerable discussion and elaboration of its specifics. This article highlights and clarifies the salient issues associated with S-D logic and updates the original foundational premises (FPs) and adds an FP. Directions for future work are also discussed. KeywordsService-dominant logic-New-dominant logic-Service
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This article explores the emergence of Airbnb, a company whose website permits ordinary people to rent out their residences as tourist accommodation. The company was just recently established, but it has grown extremely rapidly and is now selling many millions of room nights annually. This rise is examined through the lens of disruptive innovation theory, which describes how products that lack in traditionally favoured attributes but offer alternative benefits can, over time, transform a market and capture mainstream consumers. The concepts of disruptive innovation are used to consider Airbnb's novel business model, which is built around modern internet technologies, and Airbnb's distinct appeal, which centres on cost-savings, household amenities, and the potential for more authentic local experiences. Despite Airbnb's growing popularity, many Airbnb rentals are actually illegal due to short-term rental regulations. These legality issues and their corresponding tax concerns are discussed, with an overview of the current state of regulatory flux and a possible path for resolution. Thereafter, the article considers Airbnb's potential to significantly disrupt the traditional accommodation sector, and the positive and negative impacts Airbnb may have on destinations. Finally, numerous questions for future research are proposed.
Because of the etymology of the word ‘value’, this article argues that value co-creation research and practice have been biased from their early days. Value co-destruction appears then as a concept that enables to keep some distance from this bias, and to have a better and more realistic understanding of value processes. More research on this topic is thus needed, especially in the rapidly growing context of ecosystems that make the analysis of value co-creation and value co-destruction even more complex. Finally, the article contends that research on co-destruction is a necessary, but not sufficient, step to depart from the etymological bias on value. To that end, it calls for a renewed value-related terminology to make it more encompassing, less biased and closer to real business life.
In this paper we investigate the Airbnb phenomenon from the dual perspective of their customers and competitors. We use two different methods to collect data: an online survey administered to customers of Airbnb and traditional hotels, and in-depth interviews with hotel executives. Our survey findings suggest that there are significant differences between the type and motivation of customers that book Airbnb compared to those that book traditional hotels. Further, the interviews with hotel executives indicate that Airbnb is not considered to be a significant disruptor and/or competitor by the major players in the hospitality industry, though the smaller and mid-range hotels are contemplating adjustments and interventions in anticipation of increased competition from Airbnb. We discuss these findings as well as implications for practice and policy and offer suggestions for future research.
Value co-destruction is emerging as an important way to conceptualize non-positive outcomes from actor-to-actor interactions. However, current research in this area neither offers a clear way to understand how value co-destruction manifests nor does it consider the role of actor engagement behaviors. Drawing on a case study in the aerospace industry, the present study begins by identifying and describing two ways in which actor perceptions of value co-destruction form: goal prevention and net deficits. Next, the study identifies and describes nine actor engagement behaviors that moderate actor experiences of value co-destruction. The study also unpacks these concepts at both the actor-to-actor and service ecosystem levels. The article concludes with implications for marketing theory and practice.
Purpose – This paper aims to present a review of the literature associated with co-creation and higher-order customer engagement concepts and poses critical questions related to the current state of research. Additionally, the paper presents a framework for customer engagement and co-creation with relevance to hospitality transactions. Design/methodology/approach – Earlier research on co-production, co-creation, consumer engagement and service-dominant logic are discussed and synthesized. Based on this synthesis, links and contrasts of these varying research streams are presented providing an articulation of key characteristics of each and how these might be applied within a hospitality context. Findings – Modalities in service transactions vary among traditional production, co-production and co-creation based on changes in attitudes, enabling technologies and the logic or ideology supporting the change. Transaction characteristics vary among manufacturing, quasi-manufacturing and services based on several key categories including differences in boundary conditions, enablers, success requirements, sustainability requirements, the dominant logic used and key barriers/vulnerabilities. When creating experiential value for consumers, firms should consider several aspects ex-ante, in-situ and ex-post of the change and during the change process. Research limitations/implications – Firms need to move toward higher-order customer engagement using co-creative modalities to enhance value creation. Current practices in the hotel industry may not in their entirety support this notion. Ex-ante, in-situ and ex-post considerations for creating experiential value need to be used as part of a checklist of questions for firms to pose in order to move toward managing customer experiences using the service-dominant logic as part of the firm’s orientation toward its market. This would give it the required thrust to create superior engagement platforms that use co-creative modalities while addressing the barriers to higher-order customer engagement as identified in the literature. Originality/value – The hospitality and tourism literature on co-creation and higher-order customer engagement is still in its infancy. A synthesis of these early studies provides support for the need for future research on co-creation that more clearly articulates the modality firms could use to move toward co-creation. This paper develops a dynamic framework using characteristics of co-creation that integrate the various stages of value creation (i.e. input, throughput and output).