- 25 April 2012
- Filed under
adminLonely Planet author
This is a guest post from Vivek Wagle at social accommodation service Airbnb.
The idea of sharing space is nothing new. From way back when grunting Neanderthals decided that being cavemates was preferable to clubbing each others’ brains out, we’ve been very sharing animals. But until recently, it didn’t make sense to share resources with people who lived far away. The costs were too high, and the social bonds too weak.
The internet has changed all that. A new marketplace philosophy, known as ‘collaborative consumption’ has begun gaining traction. Espoused by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers in What’s Mine Is Yours and by Lisa Gansky in The Mesh, collaborative consumption is based on the principle that being able to benefit from a good – tangible or intangible – is more important than actual possession of that good. Or, more succinctly, access trumps ownership. And that access, coupled with the social context that allows for cross-border interaction, is now available on a truly global scale thanks to the internet.
This shift in thinking is at the heart of social accommodation services such as Airbnb. These marketplaces for space allow direct access to unique, diverse lodging experiences anywhere in the world. They enable more authentic trips for travellers, who can choose from a wide spectrum of options that better reflect life in a destination. Anyone with spare space can be a host, whether they have a shared living room, a private bedroom, an entire apartment, or even a castle. This means that hosts can get immediate financial benefit from the space they’re using, and guests can stay at places beyond their wildest dreams – as well as enjoy local insight, if they choose
This form of collaboration has benefits that extend well beyond the transaction between a host and a guest. Local economies benefit, as traveller money is spread beyond a city’s hotel quarter or tourism centre. Because sharing space necessitates less land use and lower resource consumption, the environment benefits. And, as communities from around the world get to know each other better, cultural barriers are eroded and we begin to regain our faith in strangers.
Although we can’t be naive about risk, the evidence shows that the right environment and opportunities allow people to shine. With the proper risk controls in place – such as cutting-edge communication tools, a supportive and involved community, and firm commitment to trust and safety from a provider – ‘stranger’ suddenly becomes a much less scary term. After all, when Airbnb’s founder Brian told his mother about the concept, she thought he was crazy. But his grandparents knew it made sense: it was how they had lived their whole lives.
How quickly our societies take up the mantle of collaborative consumption is anybody’s guess. But in the meantime, it’s taking hold of the travel industry in a huge way – enabling people to rent out, and stay in, everything from treehouses to luxury boats.
Without a doubt, we have access to more than we think.
Ever stayed in a houseboat, treehouse or underground cavern? Let us know in the comments!