Fairbnb, a startup that is based in Bologna, Italy, is the culmination of the efforts of autonomous groups in different cities that banded together to create a more ethical version toward home sharing. Through a desire to demonstrate that social responsibility can be cultivated in the sharing economy of the tourism market, Fairbnb hopes to inspire the rest of the market to follow suit.
The platform was set to launch in late June 2019 but has been pushed back until mid to late September due to an unforeseen delay in financial resources, which are self-funded by members with the assistance of crowdfunders worldwide.
Description of the destination or original product
Fairbnb allows travelers to legally obtain accommodations from a fair, collectively-owned, and transparent booking platform designed to create meaningful travel and achieve community participation. Through collaboration with municipalities, the platform guarantees that cities can analyze tourism trends and their effects, and it guarantees the legality of rented properties.
Fifty percent of all Fairbnb’s commission is donated to local community projects; locals decide which projects to offer as options, and vacationers opt to fund the project of their choosing, e.g. social housing for residents, community garden funds, etc. Donations to such projects can even be made on the platform without having to book accommodations on the website. Therefore, local communities are also empowered to use the platform as a crowdfunding tool if they so choose.
Local communities are further empowered because residents democratically determine the way in which Fairbnb will operate within their community. Additionally, to limit the negative effects of home-sharing on the housing market of a community, hosts are limited to having only one secondary house listed on Fairbnb.
The co-op is independent, thus ensuring that it is influenced by locals rather than investors. Through a framework of co-ownership and co-governance, decisions are made collaboratively.
Process that led recognition that change was necessary
With the rising popularity of home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb, destinations throughout the world (and especially in Europe) have faced issues relating to mass tourism, which has led to housing crises and other economic phenomena that have negatively impacted locals. Revenues have been redirected from the local economy and toward international organizations, leaving the local population with exceedingly fewer benefits from tourism. Cities such as Venice and Barcelona have suffered the loss of much of their cultural identities, as many locals who cannot compete with the revenues of short-term rental properties have had no choice but to move out of the city centres in the pursuit of affordable housing. Lack of local regulation, aggravated by short-term rentals from speculators who own multiple properties, has only made matters worse. The affordability of rent in touristic areas has been met with consternation, as seen in cities such as Bologna, where students have protested rising rental costs as a result of Airbnb’s presence.
Process that facilitated change
In 2016, the movement to create a home-sharing platform that could serve as an more sustainable alternative to already existing options began. Initially developed by groups from Venice and Amsterdam, where Airbnb and other accommodation options have created considerable issues for local populations, industry experts, activists, coders, researchers, and innovative minds worldwide became involved in what officially came to be known as Fairbnb as of late 2018.
Fairbnb is owned and managed by a cooperative of those directly affected by the platform, i.e. users and neighbors, who collaborate with hosts and visitors to create a community-driven experience for all. The model consists of local nodes, which utilizes human interactions as the cornerstone of Fairbnb’s business model. These nodes agree upon sustainability rules that, in addition to local regulations, locals must conform to when listing their properties.
Fairbnb’s test cities were originally in the founders’ cities of residence, but anyone interested in becoming a host is encouraged to pre-register online in order for Fairbnb to become a worldwide phenomenon. To create new nodes, it is required for a small group of locals to initiate the process and for some hosts and social projects to be found.
Overall, the initiative has been met with approval. In Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bologna, Venice and Valencia, the city administrations have been supportive of Fairbnb’s pilot programs. Local nodes have also been developed in Genova, Helsinki and London as of summer 2019. Still, it will be some time until results better reveal Fairbnb’s impact on the sharing economy.
Fairbnb remains a dynamic cooperative program that constantly adjust to changes in accommodation regulations within countries where it holds a presence. For example, as of 1 August 2019, Italy has implemented a new law requiring all tourist accommodations to obtain an identification number through a public register that shall be displayed wherever the accommodation is offered. With changes such as these, Fairbnb is obliged (and enthusiastic) to adapt its platform in order to comply with such regulations and move toward fairer home sharing.
Via Alfredo Calzoni, 1, Bologna, Emilia Romagna 40128, IT
T: +39 334 741 4159
Fairbnb units as of July 2019