As the gig economy continues to colonize an increasing share of the real economy, many more Airbnb hosts are popping up in cities around the world. Many people, myself included, have mixed feelings about Airbnb and similar types of business models. While it creates the opportunity for some people to increase their revenue streams and even make a living off of hosting, it has a social cost that is invariably borne by those less-well off people who still need affordable places to live. Sure they too can benefit from becoming hosts, but not everyone has the flexibility and means to share their space with travellers. And while city regulations and condo building by-laws can also control the spread of room shares, in the end it is a trend that is likely here to stay. So how can the wealth it generates for some help create opportunities for others?
Local artists often live quite financially precarious lives. It is very difficult to make a living producing art of any kind, and while the long tail of the Internet means in theory everything ever created may one day be found and bought by a fan, the reality in the art world as in so many other forms of created content these days is that it is a winner-takes-all formula, with a few well known artists taking the vast majority of money spent on art.
As hosting an Airbnb is inherently about having local access – and often the most sought after and better maintained Airbnb locations are coveted precisely because they offer travelers an authentic, “live like the locals” experience, it seems to me that making a deliberate effort to purchase or even simply rent and showcase locally produced art on a rotating basis would be an easy way to both burnish an Airbnb host’s “local knowledge” credentials – and help share the gains from the enterprise to local artists whose rents may be going up as a result of all the nearby Airbnbs.
The art purchased or rented can be photos of local iconic scenery, or hand crafted pieces of pottery made by local artisans with information provided to guests of how to see more works by a given artist if interested, and maybe purchase something for themselves to take home with them. There could even be a new role created within the Airbnb community to hire local Airbnb Art Curators who kit out your place for you for a fee or a cut in the commission for selling an artwork.
If you have a space that you share, with walls currently decorated in mass-produced prints, probably manufactured abroad and sold in a discount home furnishing store or your local IKEA, why not make the small effort it takes to reach out to a few local artists and see if any of their works would work well in your space? I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find at least one or two real, genuine works of art made by someone possibly living in your neighbourhood who would be thrilled at the chance to earn a little more money and maybe help grow their own reputation and reach as an artist.