The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
My husband and I have been hosting Airbnb guests in our spare bedroom for more than 2 years now. It's been a joy to meet people from all over the world who, like us, don't particularly like to stay in hotels, but want to be with the citizenry, in neighborhoods, in homes, so they can feel the pulse of the city from a resident's point of view. There's nothing wrong with hotels, but some people like them and some people don't. Airbnb and companies like them give folks like us options -- which means we spend more than we would if we just stayed home. My husband and I travel regularly on business and to visit friends and family all over the world, but we have stayed in a hotel only 3 times in the last 20 years. We've stayed with friends or friends of friends or, lately, in Airbnb homes all over the world hundreds of times. We're both self-employed. The money we receive from Airbnb helps with bills, mostly. We also pay STR Hotel Taxes to the City and State on those earnings, so the money flows. And our guests spend like crazy! They attend theatre, buy groceries, go to LOTS of restaurants, museums, and places of worship, attend local events, and support the city's various transportation systems, including the airport. If they stay for at least a week, they usually end up taking side trips to other cities where they spend more money. They rent bikes or cars, and they ride the bus. Several of them want to move here, so they stay in various Airbnb locations to get a feel for the neighborhoods, before they end up renting an apartment or buying a home. Because most of them are on social media, they talk about their experiences with others who also come for a visit. We've checked out Airbnb and similar companies, and have nothing but praise for the way Airbnb has set up its portal for both guests and hosts. The guests also have high praise for Airbnb. Hosts and guests appreciate that Airbnb handles the money, both getting it from the guest and depositing it into the host's bank account. Through special emails that Airbnb creates for each person, hosts get to correspond with potential guests who are merely inquiring, and with those who make a reservation request. We can also talk with each other by phone, WhatsApp (free international texting), and Skype. Previous reviews that the guests and hosts received are posted on Airbnb's website so both parties can make an informed decision before making or accepting a reservation request. And after guests depart, both parties are given 14 days to post a review of their experience. Airbnb also insures the host against any damages caused by a guest. I've had to report damage twice in 2+ years, for a total of less than $80. Airbnb's customer service is excellent -- they respond promptly by phone or email, 24/7.