This weekend my wife and I made a brief trip to Vancouver, Canada and had a chance to use Airbnb. We stayed at a house in the suburbs with people we’d never met before and had a great time of it.
This never would have been possible without the internet and without these new sharing websites, such as Airbnb. Pre-sharing economy, the only options we would have explored would have been hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and youth hostels. There simply wouldn’t have been a way for us to find someone who would want to rent a room in their house to us for the night.
But we really enjoyed this new option! We got to stay with and meet locals, one of whom had been raised just down the block and had seen the city transform from farmland to a bustling city. Not only were they kind and gracious hosts with a lovely house, but they had a wealth of tips and suggestions. Given that this was a last-minute trip with nearly no advance planning on our part, their advice was incredibly helpful. On top of that, we saved quite a bit of money compared to what we would have spent for a hotel or even a youth hostel and saw an area outside of Vancouver that we wouldn’t have otherwise visited but that had some unique cultural aspects, such a night market similar to Hong Kong’s.
Sites like Airbnb are making it possible for our hosts — and presumably tens of thousands of people like them — to run a small business out of their home that simply wouldn’t have been a viable business model before. It was an interesting experience to observe the sharing economy firsthand at the micro scale instead of simply thinking about it more abstractly.