With Airbnb making a dent in travel-accommodations worldwide, you’d think their main goal was to provide cheap shelter. But no, Joe Hewitt thinks it’s something else:
And this, fundamentally, is what Airbnb is about. Belong Anywhere — it is aiming to not be an escape from the real world, but one of the few times you actually experience it. It has never really been a travel company. It sells roleplay — a form of entertainment that has more in common immersive theatre, gaming, books, and movies.
Source: Airbnb: a real-life Westworld?
Being able to “live among locals” was part of the draw of Airbnb. No “travel compartment” to temporarily live in – like a hotel – but rather more like a themed bungalow park accommodation. The potential conflict being that the theme is real and the disconnection of the traveller in question might generate problems; the traveller might not engage in the roleplay, but be contrarian.
Of course this is what (here in the Netherlands) makes people in Amsterdam protest against the “scourge” of Airbnb. The “doesn’t want to engage in roleplay” is also frighteningly similar to the protest against refugees moving to the Netherlands, regardless of economic, ecological, or conflict reasons. “If only they would be normal like any other.”
For both the traveller and the refugee this roleplay is essentially wanted (reside in the new environment) but also very stressful (change is hard). They might default to their original cultural selves when hidden from view and then increasingly in plain view as the roleplay becomes mentally tiring, giving rise to cultural friction.
Trying to solve cultural problems with governing laws only generates more friction and straight up dictates a more narrow way of life. You’d think we were collectively trying to move away from such “ideals”. In that respect, the world might culturally not be ready yet for Airbnb and drop the pretense of constant roleplay.