1.1 Background for choice of topic
Since I have been studying Hotel Management and I have been working in different chain hotels for the past 4 years, I have cultivated a genuine interest in the development of the hotel industry and tourism in general. Something that caught my attention was the Airbnb phenomenon and I have been following its rise in popularity for many years. It is essentially an accommodation service through which a private person can rent out his or her own room, apartment or full house. There have been many articles written about Airbnb and in recent years, it has benefited from impressive media coverage.
The company’s rapid growth made me wonder what effect it could potentially have on the hotel industry. The Norwegian hotel industry is in continuous expansion and numbers from the Benchmarking Alliance show that 9 out of 11 biggest cities in Norway had in 2017 a considerable increase in hotel rooms sold (Wiederstroem, 2018).
After a few quick searches on Google, I discovered that Airbnb is not perceived as a threat to the hotel industry in Norway (Furuholmen, 2017). Statements from Airbnb founders show that the company does not consider itself a competitor for the hotel industry either and it hopes to avoid ending up in a competition situation with hotels (Lyche 2014).
If these statements are true then it might indicate there are two separate customer segments: one that chooses Airbnb and another that prefers hotels. I thought it would be interesting to investigate if this is indeed the present reality of the accommodation market. An effective way to research if there are different segments that choose different accommodation alternatives would have been to conduct a quantitative study. Since the Airbnb phenomenon is relatively new in Norway and there is not enough existing research on the topic, I concluded that it would be difficult and it would potentially lead to an inconclusive result, therefore I qualitative study.
1.2 Research question and assumptions
The research question for the thesis is the following:
«What motivates tourists to choose Airbnb as accommodation instead of hotel?»
Based on the topic I wish to delve into, the research question of this thesis is exploratory in nature. Jacobsen (2015, 80) explains how an exploratory research question can reveal new knowledge about a phoenomenon by finding out what it comprises of.
I had a few assumptions as to what motivates and attracts people to choose Airbnb that I hoped to either confirm or debunk through the present study:
I assume that travelers use Airbnb because they seek an experience.
I assume that the people who choose Airbnb seek an authentic experience.
I assume that people’s choice to use Airbnb is driven by an economic incentive.
I assume that Airbnb users will exibit a negative attitude towards standardization.
1.3 Central theory
To answer to the research question, the thesis will explain and discuss two main theories. The first theory is Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen’s model for decision making, A simple model of decision making that has its roots in consumer behaviour. The term consumer behaviour is defined by the authors as „the behaviour that consumers display in searching for, purchasing, using, evaluating and disposing of products and services that they expect will satisfy their needs.” (Schiffman, Kanuk og Hansen 2012, 2). The model explains the process related to a consumer’s decision taking process, from the moment a need is recognized until the purchase process is finished. The model is included in the thesis to better argument what motivates AirBnB users to use this alternative instead of hotels.
The second theory included in this thesis is Susanne Poulsson’s research theory on the difference between service and experience. Poulsson’s theory is included so as to possibly indicate a difference between the situations when consumers choose hotels and when they choose Airbnb or other accommodation alternatives. Airbnb promotes different lodging offers such as lighthouses, caravans, tree houses and boats among others. Based on this, the company builds up the expectation that the stay will be an experience in itself, not just a place to sleep.
1.4 The study’s structure
The present study is divided in five main chapters. In the introduction chapter I have introduced the background for study. I have also presented the research question, my assumptions and the main theories used.
The study’s main topic, Airbnb and the sharing economy, will be discussed in the second chapter. I will explain both phenomenons and how Airbnb works and who uses it. I will also discuss Airbnb’s effect on the hotel industry based on reports, research and media statements. The third chapter will comprise of relevant theory. This chapter is divided in three main parts. There will be a short paragraph on market segmentation followed by a walk-through and explanation of A simple model of consumer decision making. The third part will concern Susanne Poulsson’s theory on the difference between services and experiences. The theory will be used as a framework for researching what motivates consumers to choose Airbnb.
The fourth chapter describes the method used in my research. I will explain why I chose a qualitative method and case as research design. I will go through the process of carrying out the in-depth interviews and I will close this chapter with a discussion about the study’s reliability and validity.
In the study’s fifth chapter, I will present the interesting finds generated by the in-depth interviews conducted. I will discuss the results of my research and I will try to answer the question as to why consumers prefer Airbnb instead of hotels. I will answer this by confronting my assumptions against research results, existing theory and own thoughts on the matter. The study will end with my conclusion.
2.0 Litterature review
In January 2015 the Norwegian Government published a report on value creation in the tourism industry in Norway, in which it mentions the sharing economy as a potential challenge to the traditional lodging alternatives. The report explains how new forms of accommodation such as Airbnb have become more popular in recent years (Iversen et al. 2015). New concepts within the sharing economy emerge constantly around the world and Norwegians are using them more and more, day by day.
Airbnb is one of the flagships of the sharing economy and, in the span of a very short time, has grown to be one of the largest providers of accommodation for travelers.
Founded in San Francisco in 2008, Airbnb describes itself as a “global travel community that offers magical end-to-end trips, including where you stay, what you do and the people you meet.” (Airbnb, 2018). Is it basically an online platform that “economically empowers millions of people around the world to unlock and monetize their spaces, passions and talents to become hospitality entrepreneurs.” (Airbnb 2018)
The accommodations listed on the website can be entire homes (apartments or houses), or private rooms in a home to be shared with the host. There is also a small number of listings for shared rooms or exotic accommodations such as tree houses.
As of March 2018, there are 4.5 million listings worldwide, in 81 000 cities, in 191 countries across the globe. (Airbnb, 2018)
Meteoric rise and Space rocket are just two ways the media has described Airbnb due to its enormous rise in popularity, guest stays and revenue in recent years (Lyche, 2014). According to Nate Blecharczyk, one of the founders of Airbnb, the number of Norwegians using Airbnb has increased drastically between 2013 and 2014, by 170%. (Lyche, 2014)
2.2 How does Airbnb work?
The Airbnb website (www.airbnb.com) is relatively easy to use: a potential guest initiates a search based on desired destination, travel dates and the number of guests; the website then retrieves a list of available places that can then be fine-tuned by price, area, neighbourhood and extras. When the traveler has decided on a potential accommodation, he or she may send the host a reservation request/message. The host will respond, ask questions and accept or reject the reservation request. The host decides to whom they will rent out their place and for how long. The host can also decide how much they would like to charge for their listing, but there is also an option to calculate in advance the price Airbnb considers reasonable for the specific area in which the listing is located. The service also offers the opportunity to increase the price during the period when the demand is high, and decrease the price when the demand is lower. Payments are encouraged to be made through the website as this way the host can benefit from the Host Protection Insurance and, in case of damages, Airbnb can refund up to $1 million USD (Airbnb, 2018). The company charges guests a 0 to 20% fee and hosts a 3% fee (Airbnb, 2018). The company is entirely internet-based and all booking and contact takes place through its website. It does not have any affiliation with any travel agency or third party channels. This means that it is very depedent of reviews from both guests and hosts so that users can easily choose a safe and pleasant place to stay.
2.3 Who uses Airbnb?
In an interview with the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv, Blecharczyk claims the common traits that Airbnb users share are that they embrace travel, local culture and meeting new people. Hosts are often also frequent users of the concept (Lyche, 2014). According to an article on Airbnb website that concerns Oslo, the average age of a booking guest is 35 (Airbnb, 2016). Another article on the website indicates that the average host age is 40.
2.4 The sharing economy
Airbnb is a part of the phenomenon called sharing economy. According to Rachel Botsman, lecturer at the Oxford University’s Business School and a world-renowned expert on technology and trust, the sharing economy is „an economic system based on sharing underused assets or services, for free or for a fee, directly from individuals.” (Botsman, 2012)
In an article from Harvard Business Review, Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers (2010) categorize different forms of collaborative consumption in 3 groups: the first group is Product Service Systems that allow companies and individuals to rent out products and services as opposed to purchasing them. The second group is Redistribution Markets based on the exchange of pre-owned and used products between someone who does not need them and someone who does need them. Used goods are sold, exchanged or given away. The third group is Collaborative Lifestyles where individuals with similar interests and needs come together to exchange and share, swap, barter resources such as time, money, skills and space.
Nowadays there are several sharing economy concepts available in Norway. Examples of such concepts are Uber, Finn.no, Mooc, Nabohjelp and Airbnb. The latter has been explained in detail above and is the actual topic of this thesis.
2.5 Experiencing unique and local authenticity.
I presented earlier an assumption that users of Airbnb would show a desire to experience the authentic and local. The desire to experience the authentic and local side of a destination is a trend that has become very popular in recent years. The quest for authenticity has been an important motivation for tourists for a very long time. McCannel (1973) writes in his book about authenticity that tourists in general are motivated by their desire to experience something authentic in their travels (p. 597). Tourists want to see life as it is really lived (p. 592), to visit hidden areas and cultivate a closeness with the locals (p. 589). In 1998 an article for Harvard Business Review titled “Welcome to the Experience Economy” discussed how “the concept of selling experiences is spreading beyond theatres and theme parks” (Pine ; Gilmore, 1998). In a closer look at the hotel industry, Gilmore ; Pine (2002) pointed out that hotels see the room rate they charge as simply the price for the services provided instead of as payment for the experiences guests live during their stay in the hotel (p. 90). Gilmore ; Pine (2002) called this “the commoditization of hotels”, meaning that hotels offer more or less the same services, hotels have rendred their services widely available and interchangeable with others provided by other hotels. This creates opportunities for alternative accommodation forms to attract guests by offering them experiences.
To counteract this, the hotel industry has created boutique hotels that are unique and offer a more local, intimate setting (Reaney, 2013).
In this part of my thesis I will present and go through the theory that will later be included in the discussion of my research results. I will begin with Segmentation and then continue with the consumer decision making process model. I will end this chapter by going through Susanne Poulsson’s theory about the difference between experiences and services.
3.1 Consumer segmentation
A market segment consists of a group of customers who have more or less the same needs (Kotler 2011, p. 226). I believe that by revealing similarities between my respondents I can discover who the typical Airbnb guest is and which needs are satisfied by Airbnb and by hotels respectively. I hope this will help me understand why Airbnb is chosen instead of hotel. One of my assumptions mentioned earlier was that my respondents will exibit a desire to experience the local culture; I will consider this as a need.
Kotler (2011, p. 233) points to several types of market segmentation:
– Demographic segmentation: age, gender, income, occupation, education, social class, nationality;
– Geographic segmentation: nations, regions, cities, neighbourhoods;
– Psychographic segmentation: personality profiles and lifestyle profiles;
– Behavioural segmentation: the customers’ attitude toward, use of, or response to a
product. Occasions, benefits, user status, usage rate, buyer-readiness stage, loyalty status and attitude.
Markets and thus a company’s marketing efforts can be handled on 5 major levels: segments,
niches, local areas, individuals and mass-marketing. (Kotler 2011, p. 247). According to Kotler (2011, p. 247) it is likely we will see more self-marketing in the future. It is a form of individual marketing in which consumers take initiative to design products and brands. Airbnb can be seen as a perfect example for this, as Airbnb only facilitates renting, it does not own nor rent out apartments.
3.2 The Consumer Decision Model
How one chooses and evaluates a product or service is differently because every individual is unique. In this part of the thesis I will go through A simple model of consumer decision-making by Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen (2012, p. 69). The model is included in the present thesis to demonstrate the decision-making process a consumer goes through, and what can influence it, this being the main topic of the whole thesis. The model is divided in 3 steps: input, process and output.
3.2.1 Input – External influences
Since the thesis researches why a consumer uses one accommodation alternative instead of another, it is natural to first explain how the consumer is affected by external influences. Most of us are exposed to stimuli in the form of information such as advertisements, friends and family. The information we are exposed to is then processed and so it influences our desires, needs and decisions (Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 68). The model separates the external influences in two subgroups: a company’s marketing efforts and an individual’s sociocultural environment. The sociocultural environment includes factors such as: family, informal sources, non-commercial sources, social class, culture and subculture (Schiffman, Kanus and Hansen, 2012, p. 68).
3.2.2 Process – Decision-making
The second part of the Process model explains how an individual takes the decision to purchase a product or service (Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 69). This part is especially relevant for my research question. The Model divided decision-making into three areas that all influence each other and ultimately the consumer’s final decision. These areas are: psychological factors, previous experience and the decision-making process.
1. Psychological factors
The psychological aspect presents the consumer’s internal influences. These include the motivation one has to make a purchase, product perception, learning, personality and attitudes. (Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 70-71).
2. Previous experience
Before one even considers to consult external sources of information, a consumer will use his or her previous experience with other similar products or services. This is considered an internal source of information. The more relevant the previous experience is, the less external information will the consumer seek. (Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 70).
3. The consumer’s decision-making process
The inner influence will again play a role in shaping the process the consumer goes through when taking a decision. The process involves the consumer first realizes he or she has a need – need recognition. The consumer will then search for ways to satisfy the need – pre-purchase search. If the consumer has been in a similar situation before, it can mean he or she already has enough information to make a purchase. It is here that psychological factors and previous experience come into play. However, if the consumer does not have previous experience with a certain product/service (because a new need was registered), he or she will consult external information that can help with the decision. This happens through search of information, for example initiating a search on the internet or contacting different suppliers Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 69-71).
When the consumer has obtained information both internally and externally, he or she will have to evaluate different alternatives – Evaluation of alternatives. Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 72). By evaluating potential alternatives the consumer will use mainly two types of information. The first one is a list of brands one plans to make a selection from – Evoked set. The second represents the criteria one will use to assess each alternative. Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 72).
The following model illustrates the evaluation process the consumer goes through before purchase. The model is based on Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen’s 2012, p. 74) explanation of evoked set, but modified to exemplify how a potential Airbnb user could evaluate between different accommodation alternatives.
All accommodation alternatives
Unknown alternatives (1)
Explanation of the model above Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 74):
1. Some accmmodation alternatives will be unknown to the consumer because of their selective exposure to different mediums, selective perception and advertisement stimuli;
2. Some alternatives are unacceptable because of poor quality or characteristics, or their positioning or their product characteristics do not match the consumer’s personality and needs;
3. These are alternatives the consumer does not perceive to have any special advantages and are therefore considered indifferent;
4. Alternatives that are overlooked because they have not positioned themselves clearly enough, or are targeted towards a specific segment or market;
5. Abandoned alternatives that are not perceived to satisfy the consumer’s needs.
3.2.3 Output – post-purchase activities
The last part of the model is based on two closely related post-purchase activities, purchase behaviour and evaluation of products/services after use (Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 83).
1. Purchase behaviour
Purchase behaviour depends on the type of purchase undertaken (Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 83). If a consumer will repeat a purchase depends on whether he or she was satisfied with the product/service. Consumer satisfaction is an individual’s perception of a product or service’s performance in relation to his or her expectations (Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 8). There are three types of purchase: 1) trial purchase – when a consumer buys and tries a product/service for the first time, 2) repeat purchase – when a product is met with the consumer’s approval and he or she agrees to use it again and in larger quantities, 3) long-term commitment purchase – the purchase of a car or a washing machine, products that are more expensive and that do not offer the possibility for a trial (Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 83).
2. Post-purchase evaluation
Expectations are defined as what consumers expect to experience based on knowledge, familiarity and previous experience (Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 166). Consumers evaluate the performance of a product/service in relation to their expectations. The evaluation process can have three outcomes Schiffman, Kanuk and Hansen, 2012, p. 84):
1. The performance meets the expectations and this leads to a neutral feeling;
2. The performance exceeds expectations, this leading to satisfaction;
3. The performance is below expectations and this leads to dissatisfaction.
3.3 Services and experiences
Susanne Poulsson, associate professor at Markedshøyskolen in Oslo, wrote her PhD thesis on the Experience Economy. In her thesis she presents her research results which show there is a clear distinction between experiences and services. Traditionally, both phenomena have been placed under the same umbrella term, namely the service industry. Poulsson (2014, 123) illustrates how the terms differ from each other in practice so much so that what one could consider positive and of highest value in one situation, can be seen as negative in another. This theory has been chosen to be included so as to better point out whether there is indeed a difference between how consumers regard a stay in a hotel and a stay in an Airbnb rental unit. The emphasis is placed on four factors that apply in the service industry, but where the value is perceived differently depending on whether it is an experience or a service. These are time, involvement, predictability and people. Below, these four factors will be explained based on Poulsson’s findings.
When people partake in experiences, a longer time is perceived as positive, since this increases the overall value. On the other hand, when it comes to services, a longer time is perceived as negative; the less time a person spends, the higher the value one will associate with the service (Poulsson 2014, 124). Time is seen as a limited resource and invidiuals would rather pay money instead of spending time on something themselves, for example when painting a house or washing a car. The faster the service can be delivered, the more money an individual is willing to pay (Poulsson 2014, 126). Contrarily, when it comes to experiences, the longer a helicopter ride, laser tag game, or cruise takes, the more is a consumer willing to pay.
There is a difference between experiences and services when it comes to how individuals perceive the number of people involved in the activity. In the case of a service, the less people, the better. When a customer is waiting in line at a café, if there are many other people in front of him or her waiting in line, is considered negative. This leads to the customer waiting long in line and the staff being less capable of paying time and attention to each customer’s wants. The product could end up being of lower quality, the customer could run out of time and become stressed. On the other hand, in the case of experiences, the more people, the better. Sharing the experience and connecting with other people is seen as positive
(Poulsson 2014, 133).
When booking a service, one expects to be able to anticipate what it involves. The consumer whishes to know exactly what he or she will get and when, and this is established through an agreement made in advance (Poulsson 2014, 130). When visiting the hairdresser, a person wishes to agree beforehand how much hair should be cut, what kind of hairstyle and which colour she or she will end up. An unexpected outcome will not be seen as something positive by most people. Conversely, too much predictability when it comes to an experience will ruin the surprises and challenges one is seeking, and can therefore reduce the whole value of the experience (Poulsson 2014, 133). When an individual partakes in an experience, the uncertainty and unpredictability build up the excitement and curiosity. If the individual would know exactly what was about to happen in a tv series or a movie, the excitement would be considerably reduced and the overall impression wouldn’t be as memorable.
The risk elements that come with unpredictability and not knowing what is about to unfold can awaken many positive experiences when everything ends well. Overcoming challenges and experiencing the sense of achievement, or feeling the adrenaline rush run through one’s body are a few examples of such positive experiences.
The degree to which a person is willing to be involved is also a factor that separates services from experiences. The value of a service is perceived as higher the less a person is involved in it, since the reason for using the service is that he or she does not have the knowledge, time or interest in the task at hand (Poulsson 2014, 128). Furthermore, the customer does not require to be present. Some examples for this could be car washing or dry cleaning of clothes. In the case of some services, however, the customer can be involved, especially if she or she would be compensated either through time or monetary cost reduction (Poulsson 2014, 128). With experiences it is the opposite. To experience something, the customer must be personally involved and physically present. Poulsson (2014, 129) explains how the value of an experience increases the more an individual is involved, and this can be illustrated through how much the customer is willing to pay for the experience. The price an individual is willing to pay also increases the more involved he or she can be, instead of just observing. To sum it up, high degree of involvement will be a selling argument for experiences, but a negative aspect for services.
In her study, Poulsson discovered seven essential characteristics to create value in experiences are: social arenas, sensory richness, novelty, challenge, interactivity, suspense and surprise, storytelling and dramatic structure (Poulsson 2014, 79).
Method represents a way to collect empirical evidence, and also an aiding tool in explaining reality (Jacobsen 2015, 24). In this part of the thesis I will explain my choice of method that was chosen to better answer to the topic and research question. The first section will deal with the thesis’ methodological perspective and will explain the research design. The second section will discuss the recruitment strategy, recruitment process, sample size, interview structure and conducting. The chapter will end with a discussion upon the study’s reliability and validity.
5.1 Choice of method
There are two types of research methods that can be used: qualitative and quantitative. Based on the topic and research question of this thesis, I chose a qualitative method. I did not choose a quantitative method because that method is rather used when trying to describe a phenomenon’s frequency or extent, than to obtain a deeper understanding of individuals’ perspective (Jacobsen 2015, 34). It is difficult to capture personal opinions and attitudes in a survey with limited answer alternatives, which is the most common data collection method in quantitative studies (Askheim and Grennes 2014, 31). Since Airbnb and the sharing economy are relatively new phenomena, a qualitative method helped me come closer to the respondents through in-depth interviews. This made it possible for me to collect a lot of information from about the respondents and their evaluation criteria.
5. 2 Research design
According to Jacobsen (2015, 87) the next step after specifying the research question is to find the study design best suited to help answer the research question. Since I was trying to get a better understanding of a phenomenon and I had many questions to ask my respondents, I chose an intensive design, respectively a case study (Jacobsen 2015, 88).
5.2.1 Case design
In the beginning of my thesis I mentioned Airbnb is the case I will focus on. Case studies seek to gather information about few units or cases, empirically limited units such as groups of individuals or an organization (Askheim and Grenness 2014, 70). This present study is a case design since Airbnb is a new phenomenon and my goal is to gather new information about what motivates travelers to choose it as accommodation. I primarily wish to investigate whether there is something special that makes users choose Airbnb instead of other accommodation alternatives, therefore it is an intrinsic case. (Askheim and Grenness 2014, 70-71).
5.3 Selection and recruitment of respondents
In this section I will describe the process of choosing and recruiting my respondents, and I will explain the number of respondents chosen, as it is relevant for the study’s validity and reliability.
5.3.1 Selection strategy
The goal of conducting a qualitative study is not to generalize, but to try to reach a deeper understanding of a topic, case or phenomenon (Jacobsen 2015, 61). A respondent is therefore not chosen to represent a population, but first and foremost to represent themselves. After the goal of the investigation has been set, one should thus select respondents that can express themselves eloquently about the topic one is researching (Tjora 2010, 128). Since my study seeks to find out why people choose to use Airbnb, it was natural to contact people that have already used it.
5.3.2 Recruitment process
Since I knew that the large majority of the people I know have used Airbnb either as hosts or guests, the respondents were recruited through Facebook. Since my network is quite broad and diverse, I selected some of my friends, acquaintaces and friends of acquaintaces for the interview. I recruited the respondents very carefuly, making sure there is maximum diversity. They are all of different backgrounds, nationalities, ages, income levels and professions. The interviews took place individually, either face to face, through Skype calls or, because of conflicting schedules and time zones, through e-mail. I sent the respondents the questions and they sent me back their answers. All agreed to be available in case I had further questions.
5.3.3 Sample size
The selection of respondents, both quantitatively and qualitatively, will always depend on what is being researched, but it is always the safest to interview more than one respondent to get a clearer, more reliable picture (Ringdal 2013, 242). The study’s goal is not to generalize behavioural patterns to a whole population, but to reveal why travelers use Airbnb instead of hotels. I limited the number of respondents to ten, since while conducting the interviews I felt I’ve discovered a wide range of common motives and attitudes in relation to Airbnb.
5.4 In-depth interview as data collection method
The data collection method chosen was in-depth interviewing. In-depth interviews, according to Tjora (2010, 90), should create a conversation that flows freely, but primarily revolves around a specific subject predetermined by the researcher. The goal of conducting in-depth interviews is to discover motives and attitudes related to social or physical conditions, or to the purchase and use of different products and services (Askheim and Grenness 2014, 88-99). Airbnb is a relatively new phenomenon and little research is available about it. I chose thus to conduct in-depth interviews in order to acquire a deeper understanding as to why the respondents use Airbnb as accommodation when they are traveling.
5.4.1 Interview guide
The interviews were conducted based on a semi-structured interview guide, see attachment 3 Interview guide. This means that most questions were already formulated, but the order and topic varied from interview to interview (Askheim and Grenness 2014, 88). Changes were made when I considered it could yield better answers.
5.4.2 Conducting the interviews
The interviews varied in terms of place and duration. To make it as easy and as comfortable as possible for the respondents, I let them choose how and where the interviews could take place. Most of the interviews took place through video-calls, while some were conducted face to face.
5.4.3 Adio recording and transcribing
All the interviews were adio recorded with the help of my smartphone. I chose this documentation method because by transcribing an interview all essential information is noted, nothing is lost. It also allowed me to relax and focus on each respondent, making sure the conversation flows smoothly. All respondents were notified that our conversations were recorded and they all consented. They were also informed that the recordings would only be used for this research and will be deleted after its completion.
5.5 Research quality assessment
The reliability of a survey relies in it being reproducible and unaffected by errors. That represents the degree to which another researcher can, with another occasion, obtain the same results with using the same data collection procedures (Askheim and Grenness 2014, 22). Qualitative studies are harder to verify than quantitative surveys, since total isolation from what is being researched is neither possible nor desired. This leads to the researcher’s general characteristics such as gender, age, knowledge and attitude influencing the theory, chemistry with the respondents and the outcome of the study (Tjora 2010, 176). In other words, it may be that my own attitude towards Airbnb has influenced the research process, and, in the end, the outcome of the results.
To consolidate this study’s reliability and make it possible to verify, I tried to follow Askheim and Grenness’ (2014, 33) advice and explain the research process as transparently as possible. I have done this by describing in detail how I went through the whole process.
The term validity is used to describe both in quantitative and qualitative studies when one wants to know if one has indeed found a valid answer to research question (Ringdal 2013, 248). A qualitative approach is harder to verify because there are no universal tests can be done, as one can do with quantitative studies. Validity in this context means therefore to which extent the results reflect the purpose of the research and if it represents the reality one is trying to capture (Askheim and Grenness 2014, 23). Since there is little existing research about my research topic, I can argue that any new research can contribute with fresh new knowledge. On the other hand, it is important to point out that my research is based on the respondents’ opinions, statements from Airbnb and the hotel industry. My respondents showed few similarities and were all individuals with different interests and preferences, which makes it difficult to generalize. Even though my results are not representative for all the individuals that use Airbnb, they still offer insight into the reasons why this form of accommodation is used. Based on this I can argue that my research results can be considered valid.
6.0 Meet the respondents
In the following chapter I will present my ten respondents and their use of Airbnb. This information is included to help the reader orientate themselves when I will present results. The respondents will henceforth be referred to as R, followed by the numbers 1 through 10.
R1 is young woman, single, aged 25 who works as an accountant and lives in Bucharest, Romania. She has used Airbnb three times in Europe, while traveling with friends. She has a very positive opinion about the concept. She travels often, once every two or three months.
R2 is a female university student, aged 22 , single, lives with roommates in Stavanger, Norway. She is also open to using Airbnb. She travels quite often, but mostly to her home country to visit her family.
R3 is a female PhD fellow, aged 30, married, lives with husband in Stavanger, Norway. She travels 5-6 times per year, both for leisure and work. Generally prefers hotels, especially when traveling with her husband, but uses Airbnb when traveling alone or with friends.
R4 is a female homemaker, civil engineer by profession, aged 27, married, lives with husband and child in Stavanger, Norway. She has experience primarily as a host, but also as a guest with Airbnb.
R5 is a female student and part-time waitress, 26 years old, in a relationship, and lives with her partner in Stavanger, Norway. She has used Airbnb twice, last time being 6 years ago. Since then she has discovered package tours are much cheaper and so she prefers them.
R6 is a female engineer, 33 years old, in a relationship, lives with her partner in Stavanger, Norway. She travels quite often both for leisure and work. She is strongly against the corporate aspect of the hotel industry, especially chain hotels. She hopes Airbnb will become a serious competitor and that it will lead to positive changes within the tourism industry.
R7 is female med student, 24 years old, in a relationship. Lives in with her partner in Iasi, Romania. Travels mostly for leisure with her partner and sometimes with her brother and his family, or for university related conferences.
R8 is a male, 38 years old, single. Lives alone in Stavanger, Norway. Works in a theatre as a prop maker. He has been hosting on Airbnb for many years and is in top 5 best hosts in Stavanger. His primary motivation to host through Airbnb is because of the extra income.
R9 is a male, 30 years old, single. Lives with a roommate in Stavanger, Norway. Works as teacher and game designer.
R10 is a male chemical engineer, 40 years old, in a relationship. Lives with his partner in Stavanger, Norway. He is a seasoned traveler, travels both for work and leisure. Has used Airbnb about 15 times.
7. 0 Analysis, results and discussion
In this chapter I will present the results of my conducting the in-depth interviews. Some of my findings are related to my assumptions, while others are included because I found them interesting and relevant in answering my research question. I will introduce my results and then discuss them. The discussion is linked to the theory and my own thoughts on the matter.
7.1 Experiences versus Services
Assumption 1: I assume that travelers use Airbnb because they seek an experience
The first result presented has its roots in Susanne Poulsson’s theory on the difference between experiences and services. I will go through the four categories of differences. For each category I will pick information from the interviews to show how the respondents consider their stays with Airbnb and hotels and if indeed they perceive any difference at all.
7.1.1 Time – Results
Airbnb is preferred for longer stays, while hotels are chosen for shorter stays
The interviews showed that most respondents use Airbnb and hotels differently. When asked what is the difference between when he uses a hotel and Airbnb, R10 answered: “If it’s a stop for one or two days, or a weekend, I would probably book a hotel. If it’s more than a week or a destination such as seaside, where I’m going to relax, I would choose Airbnb.” When asked why she chose Airbnb for a long stay, R3 said: “Mostly because of the price, but we had to stay for 8 days and we would rather cook for ourselves than spend money eating at restaurants.” To the question when does he not use Airbnb, R10 responded: “I’ve never use Airbnb when I travel for business. It just doesn’t happen. Hotels offer services that you cannot find in Airbnb. For example, if I’m on a business trip and I’m arriving at midnight, I can check-in at the hotel no matter what. If my plane is delayed, I can go to a hotel no matter what. That doesn’t happen with Airbnb.” The issue of time appeared in the case of R2, as she had to choose a hotel when she had a long layover: “It was as my first time traveling alone so I was a bit afraid of new things, so I just chose a hotel that was closest to the airport.”
In conclusion, I see that hotels are used for shorter stays, typically for business travels when time is limited and Airbnb is preferred for longer stays.
7.1.2 Time – discussion
The fact that Airbnb guests stay longer than hotel guests is confirmed by a report issued by Airbnb, where it is mentioned that the average Airbnb guest stays 5 nights, compared to a regular tourist who stays 2,8 days (Airbnb).There can be many explanations for this. On one side it can be because Airbnb is generally much cheaper than hotel alternatives. Furthermore, in case of a longer vacation, the budget tends to be tighter so it is advantageous to choose cheaper accommodation. On the other hand, none of my respondents named price as the main criteria when evaluating different Airbnb alternatives. Most often mentioned criteria are location, good reviews, amenities, pleasant aesthetic. Based on Poulsson’s theory the fact that the respondents use hotels for shorter stays can mean they see it as a useful service when depending on a destination, for example in case of a long layover in a new city, one would choose the hotel closest to the airport, as was the case of R2. One can thus think that Airbnb is perceived as an experience in itself. The longer one stays in another person’s house, the more can one experience the destination.
7.1.3 People – Results
Travelers choose Airbnb because they want more social interaction
Poulsson’s (2014, 133) theory claims that it is perceived as positive when others participate in the same activity when the activity is considered an experience.
I assume that travelers use Airbnb because they seek an experience.
I assume that the people who choose Airbnb seek an authentic experience.
I assume that people’s choice to use Airbnb is driven by an economic incentive.
I assume that Airbnb users will exibit a negative attitude towards standardization.