The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
As a longtime Airbnb host, I am writing in support of sharing economy business models. First off, the Airbnb guest experience is entirely different from a hotel experience in that guests stay in unique lodgings where they meet individuals who are their hosts, hear insider information about a community (not paid concierge tips), and typically spend less money on their lodging than when they go to a full-service hotel. This latter point is important because most of my Airbnb guests choose to stay with me for $80-85 a night so they can stay MORE nights in an expensive city and because they don't need all the amenities of a full-service hotel (the minimum-wage maids turning down their bed daily, the bad restaurant off the lobby, etc.). Most of them are retirees in town to see adult kids who live in tiny apartments, or because there's a new grand baby, etc., and they want to stay with me b/c there are no hotels in the neighborhood where their relatives live. While the hotel experience (and hotel lobbying groups) no doubt lament the existence of Airbnb, I highly doubt that Airbnb is hurting their bottom lines. Not only are more guests staying in a neighborhood (in my case, West Seattle) with NO HOTELS, but they are also saving money on lodging that they then put back into the local economy (more days to go out to breakfast, shop, site see) in other ways. As an Airbnb host, I gain valuable income (typically 5% of my gross annually) from Airbnb, and since I am a freelancer who works from home the room rental income helps me financially as well as with additional tax deductions connected to the room's rental. I also pay a local housekeeping service to help with my room's upkeep and use my Airbnb money on local incidentals for myself. So, if anything, the sharing economy REDISTRIBUTES money in a different way than a hotel does. I have never had any problems with guests (though I do say no to guests occasionally), and Airbnb provides a layer of protection (I can obviously get more insurance if I want) as well as an "escrow" function when guests book -- guests put up their money upon booking, hosts receive it a day or two into the reservation, so that if there are any discrepancies they are resolved. Both host and guest are free to "choose" to interact with one another, and it is clear (to me, anyway) what the risks are in the situation. Additionally, the reviews by past guests, photos, and other verification methods used by Airbnb help communicate with candor what guests do and don't get. When I have been an Airbnb guest, I like the idea of supporting a homeowner directly -- we have stayed in neighborhoods within Asheville, NC, where there are no hotels but where "real people" live and enjoyed our stays, and also in a loft above a bike shop in Eureka, CA. In both cases, I liked feeling like the income the hosts would receive would go directly into their pockets and that I was in a unique lodging situation. I also liked being in "real neighborhoods" and not in the "hotel corridor" or "tourist district" of a community. Ireland has "farm stays" and there are many other metaphoric equivalents to Airbnb in other countries. I understand if a renter is violating their landlord agreement by hosting Airbnb then that is a problem, and some cities' concerns about it do make sense, but individual homeowners ought to have the right to rent as they wish to whom they wish.