Trust and Reputation in the Sharing Economy: The Role of Personal Photos on Airbnb
Tourism Management, 55, 62-73, 2016 Forthcoming
43 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2015 Last revised: 14 Feb 2016
Date Written: January 2016
'Sharing economy' platforms such as Airbnb have recently flourished in the tourism industry. The prominent appearance of sellers’ photos on these platforms motivated our study. We suggest that the presence of these photos can have a significant impact on guests’ decision making. Specifically, we contend that guests infer the host’s trustworthiness from these photos, and that their choice is affected by this inference. In an empirical analysis of Airbnb’s data and a controlled experiment, we found that the more trustworthy the host is perceived to be from her photo, the higher the price of the listing and the probability of its being chosen. We also find that a host's reputation, communicated by her online review scores, has no effect on listing price or likelihood of consumer booking. We further demonstrate that if review scores are varied experimentally, they affect guests’ decisions, but the role of the host’s photo remains significant.
Keywords: sharing economy, Airbnb, trust, attractiveness, reputation
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