The Airbnb phenomenon: Economic Growth or Relocation?

The arrival of the internet at the end of the 20th century caused drastic changes in the quality and agility of communication between clients and companies. One of the most affected sectors has been air transport and tourism, where there has been a complete revolution in the way services are distributed. During the early years, email communication was a first booking tool. However, the development of dynamic pages under Web 2.0 provided the immediacy and personalization necessary for the definitive rapprochement between supply and demand. The gradual generation of trust in the system, security in electronic payment, and the creation of reservation portals redistributed market power towards supply to the detriment of intermediation. This phenomenon made it possible to put on the map a very diverse range of increasingly specialized offerings, while the travel agency business and the power of tour operators declined. The traveler has gained in efficiency with his choices by having many more options of choice, ceasing to demand closed tourist packages that were aimed at an “average” tourist. The creation of internet portals that facilitated accommodation in private homes was a matter of time.

Currently, two of the most popular platforms are Homeaway and Airbnb. Although they already existed since 2006 and 2008, respectively, it was not until 2015 and 2016 when the phenomenon grew exponentially in Spain. This growth has allowed tourists to have an even wider range of offer both in terms of space, quality, proximity to residents and price. In turn, the owner has had an additional source of income that can have an impact on the generation of direct and induced GDP. Likewise, this impulse on the generation of income has caused a similar impulse in the demand for properties for this purpose and in the reduction of the supply of the traditional rental market, with the consequent increase in prices. The increase in the rental price has generated the risk of expulsion of residents from tourist areas, generating unease and rejection in some sectors of the population. It is also necessary to mention the presence of negative externalities related to the use of residential areas by tourists, as well as the need to regulate the service in terms of quality control and tax collection.

Public institutions are still unaware of the economic and social implications that the emergence of these platforms has for the regional economy. Some institutions have positioned themselves by prohibiting this new type of intermediation, while other institutions have opted for intermediate measures, or laissez faire. The lack of studies that comprehensively and precisely cover this phenomenon prevents informed decision-making in this regard. This study tries to better understand if there is an impact on the generation of direct GDP, its distribution in space and its degree of competition with the incumbent supply, taking into account three types of tourism: city, sun and beach and nature.

In a simplified way, the direct GDP generated from aggregate tourism spending can be approximated by subtracting the imports necessary for its production. The key, therefore, focuses on distinguishing the difference between the aggregate spending before and after the entry of P2P platforms into the market. The aggregate expenditure on tourism is the result of multiplying the number of arrivals, by the daily tourist expenditure, and by the length of stay. This study analyzes the Airbnb platform due to its popularity in Spain and the availability of very accurate data. Therefore, the object of study is to understand the impact of the Airbnb entry in terms of arrivals, expenditure and length of stay and how it has been able to shift or modify the price of the incumbent offer. For this, on the one hand, econometric models of structural time series and panel data are used that aim to quantify these differences before and after the entry of Airbnb. On the other hand, a spatial analysis of the Airbnb supply is also necessary to understand the degree of penetration of this supply in the space depending on the type of tourism. This analysis is carried out using bivariate indicators of spatial correlation with respect to the incumbent and the location of the demand.

The study focuses on the sun and beach destinations of the Canary Islands, where 21% of tourist overnight stays are concentrated in Spain. The quality of the data of the existing hotel plant and of Airbnb, allow to know the demand, the prices and the degree of occupancy of both at the micro-destination level. In addition, the condition of islands allows to limit the demand in space, and makes them an ideal analysis laboratory to better understand this phenomenon.

With certain nuances, these results can be easily generalized to other regions with a strong tourist presence.

Technical details

Collaborating or sponsoring entities of the project: FEDEA
Time period: 2018-2019

Researchers and Associate Personal

Juan Luis Eugenio Martín

Sponsors and Partners

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