Airbnb hosts are more likely to face conflict with guests if they don’t set clear rules and boundaries, new research shows.
University of Canterbury Business School professors Lucie Ozanne and Girish Prayag
have studied how wellbeing can be enhanced or reduced in the host-guest relationship in Airbnb accommodation.
They also explored the impact on hosts when guests showed a lack of care for their property.
According to professors Ozanne and Prayag, there have been many studies investigating the experiences of Airbnb guests but the wellbeing of hosts has received little attention, until now.
They carried out in-depth interviews with 22 Airbnb hosts in Canterbury and found that the role both enhanced and reduced their wellbeing. Airbnb listings have grown rapidly in the region from 0.7% of accommodation listings in 2016 to 21.6% of listings in 2018.
The results, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, suggest that a lack of “territorial boundaries” in shared accommodation could lead to conflicts that reduced the hosts’ wellbeing.
“The negative side arises when they haven’t set clear boundaries between areas that are private and those that are for the guests to enjoy,” says Professor Prayag. “If the guests treat the property as just another hotel room, that can create conflict and tension, and in shared spaces the boundaries issue is probably bigger.”
Professor Ozanne says some of the hosts described damage to their property, mess and even thefts, and reported that Airbnb hosting could have unintended negative consequences on their lives.
In one interview, a host described the impact of a demanding guest: “… this was somebody who needed to talk non-stop for hours and needed to be heard. And then he came and stayed again, and we went, ‘Oh no’. We had a lovely experience, but it was taxing.”
Professor Prayag says the other downside is when guests provide feedback the hosts are not expecting. “They might have said one thing in person, but then the comments they post online are very different.”
He says it’s important peer-to-peer accommodation providers such as Airbnb provide training to hosts to boost their managerial skills and ensure they have realistic expectations around what’s involved.
“It’s important that hosts know how much they can set and enforce their own house rules and that guests understand those rules as well.”
Professor Ozanne says Airbnb hosts also reported positive effects from the role, including financial, social and emotional benefits.
“In some cases, the additional income allows them to plan for their retirement. There are also social benefits, such as meeting new people and interacting with people from other cultures and feeling good about providing authentic experiences to their guests.”
One interviewee said: “I suppose that because I had the opportunity to live and work overseas for 10 years, it’s kind of like I travel vicariously through the guests that come. And a lot of times they come from places that I used to live in… I just enjoy meeting people from those countries and talking about it. But also sharing what it’s like to live in Christchurch.”
Professor Ozanne’s advice for people considering becoming Airbnb hosts is to have a clear idea of why they are doing it, what their expectations are, and what they feel comfortable with in terms of guest behaviour.
They’ve often only heard one perspective of hosting, she says. “Friends may have told them it’s a good thing to get into and they’ve made money from it. But they need to talk to a range of people who have had a range of experiences.”
Professor Prayag says because the data was collected before the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s a need for further research to see what its impact has been on host wellbeing.
He says smaller scale, private accommodation is likely to remain popular with travellers wanting to avoid busy hotels. “There may be more of a push towards stand-alone rather than shared places to stay.”
Airbnb is one of the best-known short-term peer-to-peer accommodation providers internationally. It allows hosts to rent their accommodation to guests using the company’s platform.