Airbnb, Blockchain, and the tourism reputation economy

Airbnb1-600x400Three recent stories about Airbnb’s future growth hold considerable interest for anyone concerned about the impact of such technology upon tourism and how the industry might develop along more responsible lines.

Last week the home sharing platform announced that it is going to enable the neighbours of its rental properties to contribute reviews. Starting in Japan, but undoubtedly soon to expand elsewhere this means that the reputation profile that is built up of accommodation providers and the travellers who stay in their properties will not only be generated by one another, but by the wider community as well. For those working for a more responsible tourism that makes greater effort to factor in its impact on destinations, this is a notable development.

Airbnb is also reported to be working on expanding the range of services it offers out beyond accommodation. Known within the company as ‘Magical Trips’, it will soon offer services and experiences to its guests such as “meals prepared by personal chefs, restaurant reservations, art gallery tours, and bicycle rentals.”

There’s not much information yet on how this might develop, but as Airbnb doesn’t own any properties, I assume it isn’t looking to own any experiences either. However, taken with the first story about neighbours reviewing how I behave as a tourist, and how this will have an impact upon my chance of future bookings, I would expect that such reputation measurement functionality will appear here too.

If you run a bike tour, you’ll be able to see what sort of reviews your potential client has received elsewhere on their holidays. And you’ll be able contribute your own reviews back into the Airbnb database too. Increasingly your profile as a ‘responsible tourist’ will be made up of a patchwork of how respectful you were to the neighbours, whether you were decent to local waiters and other staff, how sensitively you responded to a local tour. Your response to that thought probably depends on how dystopian your views of technology and surveillance are.

Where might it all lead? In a further interview earlier this month, Airbnb’s co-founder and CTO Nathan Blecharczyk was asked about his company’s interest in Blockchain. Best known for its use in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, Blockchain is an encoded public ledger that maintains a continuously-growing list of data records that each refer to previous items on this list. Many see it as a holy grail for the development of online trust. Blecharczyk replied: “We’re looking for all different kinds of signals to tell us whether someone is reputable, and I could certainly see some of these more novel types of signals being plugged into our engine.”

It’s not just the likes of Airbnb that are exploring Blockchain’s potential. Last year the Greek Island of Agistri began an experiment with a blockchain enabled cryptocurrency called Drachmae that would enable tourists and travel businesses to circumvent the collapse of Greece’s traditional economy and continue to transact with confidence while on the island. The story suggests a way for regional destinations to insulate themselves against any economic shocks that might befall the countries of which they are part.

Responsible tourism has generally had an uneasy relationship with technological development, which is often seen as disempowering and detaching us from the world around. However if – and it is still a big early days if – the likes of blockchain and the growing ‘reputation economy’ deliver on the promises they are making – it may one day become its new best friend.

Read the original article: Airbnb, Blockchain, and the tourism reputation economy | Travel Industry Blog, Reports, Press Releases | WTM London

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smithhttp://www.jmcsmith.com
Jeremy Smith is the editor and co-founder of Travindy. He is a writer and communications consultant working for a more responsible and sustainable tourism industry. He is the author of two books, writes a fortnightly blog on responsible tourism for World Travel Market, and provides consultancy to a wide range of companies and organisations, ranging from National Parks to individual hotels and tour operators.

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