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Current Issues in Tourism
ISSN: 1368-3500 (Print) 1747-7603 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rcit20
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:
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13683500.2018.1475469
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
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
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 system’s 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-
der–customer relationships (Chathoth et al., 2016), few have focused on host–guest 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
CURRENT ISSUES IN TOURISM
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 guest’s 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 50–60 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 50–60 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-
viewees’Airbnb accommodation experiences. One question specifically dealt with negative Airbnb
accommodation experiences and their causes. The third section included one question about the
interviewees’positive 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 20–30 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 interviewees’occupations 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
2E. STHAPIT AND J. JIMÉNEZ-BARRETO
illustrates the interpretive codes around the significance of poor communication contributing to
negative Airbnb accommodation experiences.
The interviewees’use of words such as ‘disappointing’,‘weren’t happy’,‘we could have had better
memories’,‘limitation’,‘frustrated’,‘stressed’,‘very frustrated’and ‘angry’were 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 ﬁrst day we couldn’tﬁnd him
at the speciﬁc hour of arrival. Finally, he came one hour later to give us the keys to the ﬂat. 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 interviewees’felt 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 guest’s 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 host’s 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)
coding) Main themes (selective coding)
‘communication problem’,‘cold welcome’,‘something wrong
with his instructions’,‘host did not respond to our request’,
‘couldn’t 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-
CURRENT ISSUES IN TOURISM 3
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.
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 http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1650-3900
Jano Jiménez-Barreto http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1953-6863
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