Airbnb: the future of networked hospitality businesses

Oskam, J. and Boswijk, A. (2016). Airbnb: the future of networked hospitality businesses. Journal of Tourism Futures, Vol. 2(1), pp. 22 – 42.

Although networked hospitality businesses as Airbnb are a recent phenomenon, a rapid growth has made them a serious competitor for the hospitality industry with important consequences for tourism and for tourist destinations. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the nature of the phenomenon, its potential further development in the next five years and the impact this developments will have on tourism, on hotels and on city destinations.

A literature study, combined with scenario workshops and a Delphi panel, were used to map current trends and uncertainties. With this input, future scenarios were elaborated using the Global Business Network (“scenario cross”) method.

Network platforms as Airbnb are often classified under something called the “Sharing Economy”, a denomination that obscures their true nature. Airbnb is a challenging innovation to which traditional hospitality will have to respond. Its impact has at the same time led to a call for regulatory policies. The definition of these policies and the evolution of tourism are variables that determine future scenarios. Attempts to ban the phenomenon mean a disincentive to innovation and protect oligopolistic markets; more receptive policies may have the desired results if tourism grows moderately but in booming destinations they may lead to a harmful commercialization.

Until now, Airbnb has been described in conceptual studies about the so-called “Sharing economy”, or more recently in empirical studies about isolated effects of holiday rentals. This paper contextualizes the evolution of networked hospitality and seeks to synthesize the sum of its impacts, thus enabling businesses and local governments to define positions and strategies.