Consumers have often sought sustainable economic opportunities. Similarly, business owners have exploited investment opportunities which offer clients a more affordable price for a costly item, asset, or service.
The term sharing economy refers to an economic model which allows clients to borrow or rent items or assets belonging to other people. Typically, this model is most suitable when the item in question attracts a high price and is not used often. Other times used for the sharing economy models are peer economy, share economy, and collaborative economy.
There are several companies which have invested and proceeded to be successful in the niche of sharing economy. AirBNB is a good example par excellence of such a company.
AirBNB is a hospitality service company as well as an online market place which offers short-term rent or lease on hotel rooms, hostel beds, apartment rentals, vocational rentals, and homestays. Its headquarters is in San Francisco, California, and boasts a high number of users globally
The company is not a hotel chain neither does it own the short time lodgings. Rather, it has assumed the role of a broker and gets commissions from the transactions thereof. Whereas the company is quite popular in the US, it has made inroads in others parts of the world including Asia.
Asia is a vibrant tourist destination. This trend is likely to continue and grow in the future. Then, it goes without saying that the demand for accommodation facilities is at an all time high.
A whooping third of travelers are not able to book mainstream accommodation choices such as hotel rooms. In such a case, the alternative becomes choosing sharing economy in preference to the rather expensive mainstream accommodation. Still, there are travelers who seek unique and different travel experiences. To such travelers, a different type of accommodation will create a memorable experience. This is where companies such as AirBNB come in in order to fill that gap.
TCI research, and PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) carried out a survey on the accommodation preferences among the travelers in Asia. It was found that in 279 million travelers were using ride-sharing and alternative accommodation, and half of them were travelers from China.
However, the fact that sharing economy thrives on cheaper products and services does not mean that it is not sensitive to quality. In fact, such travelers still make attempt to taste high brands and iconic offers. Consequently, companies that are penetrating the sharing economy market should not assume that the clients are not sensitive to quality.
On its part, AirBNB has made several attempts in order to be competitive in the market. This include diversification of the products and services it offers. In addition to that, the company is adopting strategies that will make it offer better price deals. AirBNB took the bold steps of challenging the traditional options of traveling in Asia.
Asia is generally a collective society. The concept of collectivity carries a lot of weight and individualism is discouraged. Therefore, it was easier to sell the ideas of sharing to the Asian market though this kind of sharing carries a fee. It should be noted that the sharing economy gives an opportunity where a traveler can interact directly with the local people.
Multinational companies as well as other different companies have faced troubled waters in their attempt to do business in China. In fact, some companies which are doing well in other countries take cautious steps when it comes to China. However, AirBNB is one of the not so many global companies which are running a viable and sustainable business in the country.
Nathan Blecharczyk, the Chief Technology Officer of AirBNB, acknowledged that the future of international travel opportunities is heavily vested in the Chinese. Julian Persaud, the regional director of Asia-Pacific stated that the company has recorded an incredible 700 % growth in outward bookings in its client base in the region.
The company has made options that are popular in China. For example, it runs a professional website in Chinese language. In addition to that, it uses modes of payment which are popular in Kenya such as Unionpay as well as Alipay.
However, despite the promising relationship, there is a deep difference between the cultural characteristics of China with its American counterpart. For example, a landlord in America may want to keep his or her personal details such as phone number a secret. The Chinese culture carries the element of accessibility- the Chinese client wants to make a direct call or instant message to the landlord. Similarly, a Chinese client may still prefer a face to face meeting before a deal is sealed.
Despite that Hong Kong is ideally part of China, the city operates very differently from other parts of China. The city ranks as the second most expensive city in the world only after Singapore. In such an expensive place, sharing economy comes in handy to offer less expensive accommodation services. AirBNB has a big list of shared lodging offers in the island. We’ve been helping homeowners in Hong Kong manage their Airbnb properties for a while now, and have experienced firsthand the popularity of the platform.
Bali is a unique travel destination in one thing among the others- unique villas, some which are found in excluded places. AirBNB offers an opportunity where travelers experience such exotic places.
One of the most significant challenges that face AirBNB is the backlash that its marketing strategies have received in Asia and in deed other parts of the world. There has been a perception that the company is contributing to the raising of rent. Other consumers have complained about the presence of strangers in their premises.
The sharing economy is not an old idea (at least the commercialized aspect of it). Like other industries of that nature, there are no clear laws regarding dealing with such companies, taxation for instance. Consequently, AirBNB has found itself on the receiving end of government regulation.
Whatever the challenges, the company has created a win win situation between asset owners and travelers. On one hand, asset owners are able to earn an income, albeit a lower one, from assets which would otherwise lay idle. On the other hand, consumers are able to use a product or a service at a lower cost.
Concerning security, AirBNB in Asia has made it compulsory that clients provide a government-issued ID before they use its services. At the same time, the online payments used are secured.
AirBNB has given the global community an opportunity to make use of an asset which is underutilized. Despite the fact that the company is dealing with short term rentals, professionals are developing a keen interest in the economics of the shared economy. Consequently, they are making a contribution either in skills or in investment. Overall, the future of AirBNB is bright and the company has ample opportunities for growth.