Airbnb raises many questions among tourism researchers

Wed 26 Sep 2018 15:16

Many cities in the world have experienced a huge increase in short-time accommodation because of Airbnb´s growing popularity. This trend and its consequences is something that has attracted researchers’ attention. The tourism research institute ETOUR has begun to look into how the local housing and job markets are affected by these new developments in the tourism accommodation sector.

Utrecht, Holland
The study was conducted in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Photo: Ivan Tykhyi.

– We have chosen a different way of looking into this issue by concentrating on Airbnb´s growth in a medium-sized city – Utrecht in the Netherlands – which is not directly associated with a great flood of tourists, but rather is a university city. Prior research on this topic has tended to concentrate on large cities, such as Barcelona or San Francisco, says Dimitri Ioannides, Professor and Head of ETOUR.

The study, which Dimitri conducted in cooperation with his colleague Michael Röslmaier and a researcher at the University of Utrecht (Egbert van der Zee), shows that Airbnb has expanded rapidly in the city. Between August 2016 and October 2017, the number of nights increased by 80 per cent, from 1212 to 2156. The greatest density in short-time accommodation is located in the city centre, where most of the tourist attractions are located. The study has also showed that Airbnb contributes to changing the cityscape in different areas, since the number of shops, cafés and restaurants is adapted to cater to the needs of tourists rather than residents.

– It is also common that Airbnb is established in areas with few families and with a low number of low-income groups, says Dimitri Ioannides.

Other research findings show that Airbnb’s rapid development all over the world, has meant that some neighbourhoods in larger cities have been completely taken over by short-term accommodation for tourists. This has made it more difficult for locals to find permanent accommodation at good prices, which in its turn may lead to a housing deficiency and a growing resistance towards Airbnb.

– There is definitely reason to believe that some areas in medium-sized cities, like Utrecht – with a growing tourism and a lack of a clear political approach on short-time rentals – can be transformed into so-called ”tourist bubbles”. In this context, it is important to ask oneself how this will affect locals or new residents in the city (including students) and their possibility to find decent-priced housing, says Dimitri Ioannides. 

In future studies, the researchers at ETOUR hope to be able to study the effect the new trend has had on the tourism industry’s labor market.  

– We want to investigate things like how this development affects the people working in the platform-based service industry, including companies like Airbnb and UBER, says Dimitri Ioannides.

Dimitri Ioannides, Professor and Head of the tourism research institute ETOUR, e-mail:, phone: +46(0)10-142 87 11



The page was updated 9/26/2018