The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
My wife is an officer in the US Navy, so we move around the country frequently. Over the last couple years we started staying at airbnb rooms as we travelled, and we realized we felt much more connected to the places we stayed. When we were stationed for two years here in 29 Palms, we decided it was our turn to host, and we've been doing it for the last six months. Our story has little to do with the fraught economics of housing in SF or NYC -- although the little bit of extra cash we get from airbnb is nice, we just think of it as a side fund for home improvement projects. For us, being airbnb hosts is about sharing and hospitality -- about making visitors to 29 Palms see the magic here, and introducing them to local places and people we love. Because we are so close to Joshua Tree National Park, we get a steady stream of visitors from all over the world, and we're proud that we can show them not just the natural beauty of America but also give them a sense of connection to an American community. We are of course in some sense in "competition" with local hotels, but in fact I believe we cater to a somewhat different set of visitors. If you forced me to look at what we do in economic terms, I would say we are introducing a tiny positive supply-side shock by unlocking two under-utilized economic assets: our spare bedroom and my penchant for talking to people over coffee. Airbnb may make lots of money from "sharing" that's really just a re-arranging of crowded hotel or rental markets, but when they talk about creating a sharing economy based around greater openness and hospitality, they're not just blowing smoke. For our family, and I believe for our guests, their platform really has given us a way to be more connected to the people around us.