Since starting out as a sofa-surfing website in 2008, Airbnb has experienced an unprecedented rise to the top. According to the Wall Street Journal, as of June 2015 the mobile app company is valued at $25.5 billion dollars. To put that in perspective, hotel giant Hilton are worth only a smidge more, at just under $28 billion. Hotels are out, particularly for young people.
18-25ers have never begrudged crashing 12 to a room in a budget youth hostel, but Airbnb has opened up a new wealth of experience. Short-term rental property listings from all over the world are only a tap away, offering a unique and immersive travel experience. Backpackers can set flexible stay times, make international friends and experience local life whilst saving a buck along the way.
Largely propelled into success by mobile phone technology, Airbnb is part of a wider trend known as the ‘Peer2Peer’ experience. Apps such as Feastly and EatWith also provide travellers with the opportunity to put down the travel guide and join a local’s dinner party.
In April this year, PwC published a report stating that sectors such as travel or car-sharing could expect annual revenues to rise from the current £10billion to £223.5billion in the next decade.
Given all the uncertainties (some are understandably skeptical about camping out on a stranger’s guest bed based on a star rating they saw online) there is no doubt the business of sharing is booming. In tough financial times, people want a genuinely good deal.
If you have a spare room in London, given the extortionate property prices, why wouldn’t you rent it out? Black cabs are for tourists; if you need to get home after a night out, of course car-sharing service Uber is the savvy choice. It feels like hacking the system. But the system is fighting back. Airbnb has encountered constant controversy since its inception, due to tough local housing laws and regulations.
The Internet is changing the way we live, and it’s about time our laws changed with it. In February of last year, Amsterdam became the first city to approve Airbnb-friendly laws by allowing private rental designation. In the UK, London has finally acknowledged a separate ruling should be made for the likes of Airbnb and One Fine Stay. It’s time to loosen up the old laws and let innovation set the precedent. Make way for the sharing economy.
By Trudie Carter