The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
I am happy to describe to you my experience with the "sharing economy" as a host on AirBnB. We have a small tree farm near Portland, Oregon, and when we bought the home and acreage almost three years ago, we ended up with a "mother-in-law" apartment we didn't need for family. We learned about AirBnB and became hosts in October, 2013. Since then we have had 42 guest stays, ranging from two nights to 16. Our experience has been wonderful. We have had virtually no issues with anything related to our guest visits. We've hosted people from England, Australia, China, Canada, and all over the US. Our guests have come for a variety of reasons, including weddings and graduations; travel en route to other destinations; weekend getaways; house-hunting during a company relocation; surprise Valentine's Day trip, and many others. We have thoroughly enjoyed the host experience and getting to know our guests. Because most of our guests have never been to our area, we've enjoyed putting together info for them about local amenities, such as a nearby historic district with many restaurants they never would have heard about otherwise. Our guests usually take our advice on recommendations. Also, our guests who are here for relocation have appreciated our understanding of the Portland area (we're both natives) and we've enjoyed making ourselves available for these newcomers. I enjoyed making the suite comfortable and cozy, and one of our repeat guests calls it her "West Linn home." I think AirBnB guests are looking for a more personalized, home-like experience and more of a personal touch from hosts, although the suite is completely private and we give our guests privacy once they check in. Our income from AirBnB has allowed us to make many improvements to our farm (we earmark it as such). I really appreciate the way AirBnB runs their business, because it's made it possible for us to do something we enjoy and gain income for home improvements, all without having to invest in things like marketing for the property. It has allowed us to use a space for a great purpose that otherwise would likely have been unused. I really hope there are no restrictions placed on companies like AirBnB, who have built in safeguards for hosts and guests and have a great business model; a lot of it is based on the host and guest review system. A person who did not provide good service as a host would not last long on AirBnb, and good reviews drive more guests to hosts. Also, I have heard the hotel industry may find things like sharing lodging an economic threat, although I feel that a typical AirBnB guest may be more drawn to Bed and Breakfasts and less toward conventional hotels. Regular BnBs are generally more expensive and offer less privacy and flexibility (and we don't offer meals or central socializing). I think there is nothing but good to be had in the US as more personal connections are made between hosts and guests within a safe framework such as AirBnB provides. As you can see, I feel strongly about this issue because of the positive impact hosting has had in my life!