Opinion

Airbnb revolution is opportunity for all

The Bermuda Tourism Authority has announced a series of seminars, which is a direct outcome of its memorandum of understanding with Airbnb, the global leader of the transformation of the worldwide vacation rental market.

The seminars, open to local homeowners interested in hosting visitors to our island, as well as owners of smaller properties already in the industry, will give residents access to the expertise at Airbnb.

This offers access to joining in the global renaissance in the visitor industry.

Bermuda’s tradition of providing great hospitality is well known. Some homeowners have capitalised on these “endemic” qualities over the years and have supplemented family income by hosting visitors in their homes.

There is the iconic story of Gerald and Izola Harvey hosting two Canadian teachers in the spring of 1959, and they provided key assistance in the transformative Theatre Boycott.

A large portion of whole neighbourhoods, such as Princess Estates in Pembroke, were able to parlay their “genuine friendliness” as they hosted repeat visitors, thus helping to successfully complete mortgage payments.

That phenomenon of “repeat visitor” appears to be a characteristic feature of Bermuda. The tradition of a sizeable portion of travellers returning to the island, much like the iconic longtail bird, reflects a shared ability to connect with “others”. Hosting a visitor in a home, which in turn provides a unique perspective, is potentially an attractive advantage.In this transformational era of the past decade, Airbnb has emerged as a global leader, scaling up the simple idea of having people “feel at home” when they travel across 150 countries. Starting in 2007, hosting visitors on “air mattresses” in hosts’ homes, leveraging the potential of the internet, it has grown exponentially, having its millionth booking by 2011.

Like any sea change, the concept of Airbnb has been negotiating challenging waters because of its collaborative system of independent partners. There has been the question of maintaining security for the protection of both hosts and travellers, as well as securing electronic payment. It has been able to maintain quality of service with a rating system available to anyone on social media.

Leveraging transparency seems to be a means of addressing the reports of discrimination on the part of some hosts in certain jurisdictions towards visitors whose names “seem” black.

This week’s BTA seminars potentially offer an opportunity for homeowners to empower themselves in a collaboration that has the potential to build momentum for a true local renaissance. The assets are within reach for most, as we draw from the best of our shared traditions, passed down from those on whose shoulders we all stand.

Those committed can rely on the provision of additional supporting skills, which can be accessed through the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation at 292-5570, as well as by encouraging the involvement of our families’ younger generations, who are naturally more tech-savvy.

Let’s move forward. If not now, when? If not us, who?

•Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda