Constructing Urban Tourism Space Digitally: A Study of Airbnb Listings in Two Berlin Neighborhoods

by   Natalie Stors, et al.

Over the past decade, Airbnb has emerged as the most popular platform for renting out single rooms or whole apartments. The impact of Airbnb listings on local neighborhoods has been controversially discussed in many cities around the world. The platform's widespread adoption led to changes in urban life, and in particular urban tourism. We argue that urban tourism space can no longer be understood as a fixed, spatial entity. Instead, we follow a constructionist approach and argue that urban tourism space is (re-)produced digitally and collaboratively on online platforms such as Airbnb. We relate our work to a CSCW research direction that is concerned with the role of digital technologies in the production and appropriation of urban space and use the concept of representations as a theoretical lens for our empirical study. In that study, we qualitatively analyzed how the two Berlin neighborhoods Kreuzkölln and City West are digitally constructed by Airbnb hosts in their listing descriptions. Moreover, we quantitatively investigated to what extend mentioned places differ between Airbnb hosts and visitBerlin, the city's destination management organization (DMO). In our qualitative analysis, we found that hosts primarily focus on facilities and places in close proximity to their apartment. In the traditional urban tourism hotspot City West, hosts referred to many places also mentioned by the DMO. In the neighborhood of Kreuzkölln, in contrast, hosts reframed everyday places such as parks or an immigrant food market as the must sees in the area. We discuss how Airbnb hosts contribute to the discursive production of urban neighborhoods and thus co-produce them as tourist destinations. With the emergence of online platforms such as Airbnb, power relations in the construction of tourism space might shift from DMOs towards local residents who are now producing tourism space collaboratively.


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