Can the platform economy be ethical? The case of Fairbnb

Authors: Michael Clancy*, University of Hartford
Topics: Tourism Geography, Economic Geography, Ethics and Justice
Keywords: tourism, platform economy, ethical consumption, short-term rentals, coop
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 23
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Much of the recent focus on overtourism centers upon hospitality and in particular short-term rentals (STR). This is particularly the case with Airbnb, the leading short-term vacation rental platform. What started as a means to share accommodation spaces (with the person-to-person social benefits that go with it) has in many cases morphed into new commercial ventures complete with institutional investors and managers managing multiple properties. These not only compete with traditional hospitality businesses, but also remove properties from the long-term market and drive up rents for residents, thereby furthering tourist gentrification of neighborhoods. As a result, cities all over the world have enacted legislation regulating the short-term rental market. Airbnb has lobbied vigorously and also instigated court challenges against these regulations. Meanwhile, citizen and renters’ groups have increasingly targeted the company. In one case, protesters briefly occupied Airbnb’s European headquarters in Dublin.

It is into this environment that a new organization, Fairbnb, announced an alternative, ethical sharing model meant to take advantage of the benefits from STR while limiting its costs. This paper will examine the ethical claims of the organization, assess its promise for alleviating the negative aspects of short-term rentals while also placing the movement within the larger framework of ethical tourism and consumption.

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