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The future of Airbnb in Savannah, Georgia.

Published in: Design
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  1. 1. SCAD - Methods of Contextual Research Cosette Saliba ∙ Eliška Skarolková ∙ Erin Legan ∙ Fernando Loza ∙ Maarsel Atallah ∙ Pranav Ranawat Client Book The Local Culture of
  2. 2. “The American dream, what we were taught was grow up, own a car, own a house. I think that dream’s completely changing. We were taught to keep up with the Joneses. Now we’re sharing with the Joneses.” -Brian Chesky
  3. 3. Airbnb
  4. 4. What is it? “Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone or tablet. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 191 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.”
  5. 5. Ethnography
  6. 6. Contextual Research Connecting to others is one of our deepest desires as humans. Connecting to others not only anchors us in who we are, but it also makes us feel like we belong. One of the ways we, as people, allow for belonging is through the experiences we walk through which connect us to others. Thus, in order to better understand the ethnographic aspect of these interactions, we chose to study the local culture of Airbnb in Savannah. The idea of Airbnb worldwide has been received in various individuals with hesitation as well as acceptance. The reason for this is that Airbnb is based on an entire system of trust - the host must trust the guest and the guest must trust the host. This idea of sharing is part of a bigger idea entitled the sharing economy, where individuals are borrowing or trading goods instead of actually buying them. This concept is widely trending and has become an integral aspect of the economy. Due to this we aimed to find Airbnb’s voice and presence not only in the sharing economy, but in Savannah as well. This process book will highlight the basics of ethnography as applied to our area of study. The book breaks down the tools used to find the voice of Airbnb as well as the voice of the user overall. As the world shifts to an economy of sharing, we were interested in the process, possibilities and people around what makes Airbnb happen. Become an integral aspect of the economy. Due to this we aimed to find Airbnb’s voice and presence not only in the sharing economy, but in Savannah as well. This process book will highlight the basics of ethnography as applied to our area of study. The book breaks down the tools used to find the voice of Airbnb as well as the voice of the user overall. As the world shifts to an economy of sharing, we were interested in the process, possibilities and people around what makes Airbnb happen. Users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.”
  7. 7. Interview Insights + Findings divided by Stakeholders
  8. 8. Hosts People hosting vacation rentals in Savannah like Airbnb because it provides them an extra income that help them to pay their mortgage and fix their house. Airbnb allows them to meet new people and offer a different experience for travelers. Some the hosts in Savannah have multiple houses listed on Airbnb and other platforms which enables them to create a long term income and have a job if they are retired or couldn’t find one. In Savannah there are multiple hosts that buy houses in poor neighborhoods with the purpose of renovate them and take care of these units that are transformed into vacation rentals, by doing this they help the community and make the neighbors look better. On the other hand there are also hosts that only care about the extra money and do not even meet their guests or take care of their houses. As for the taxes, there were hosts paying their taxes before they were mandatory, they want to help the city, but they are still confused about the hotel/motel tax because they do not consider themselves a hotel or motel. We found out that hosts living in the city take care of their guests and houses and do not have problems with neighbors, unlike the hosts that do not live in Savannah, and it’s because of that reason that local hosts don’t like external investors or people owning vacation rentals without living in the city. Some hosts are taking advantage of the unclear terms and are applying for business certificates as bed and breakfasts and inn because these types of accommodations are allowed in zones where vacation rentals are not.
  9. 9. Guests Guests like Airbnb because it is cheap, has flexible accommodation options and it allows them to have a local experience and explore places normal tourists don’t, like local businesses. Since guests are travelers some of them don’t care about the city, they are there to have fun, and sometimes this can cause problems to neighbors that live next to vacation rentals. Some of the most common complains about guests are: noise at night, invasion of private property, and trash in the streets. Accommodations Big hotels brands do not consider vacation rentals as competitors because they are targeting another market, hotels and resorts offer a variety of services like discounts in local businesses, spas, gyms, restaurants and reward points that Airbnb is not offering. On the other hand, inns and bed and breakfasts do consider vacation rentals and home sharing competitors because they target a similar market and offer the same kind of services, such as common areas and a local experience for travelers. However, some bed and breakfasts and inns in the city use Airbnb as an advertising platform, even though they consider it a competitor. In general, hotels, bed and breakfasts and inns want a level play field, and want vacation rentals and home sharing to pay the same taxes they are required to pay because they are offering lodging taxes.
  10. 10. City The city, including the tourism, zoning and revenue department, think vacation rentals are great for the city because they generate revenue and bring more tourists the Savannah. On the other hand vacation rentals are taking off the market affordable long term rentals for citizens, and are increasing the property value of the neighborhoods. The city created the ordinance 2 years ago in order to control vacation rentals and decrease the amount of complaints from neighbors and hotels, however they are ready to expand the zoning to allow other citizens to get the benefits from home sharing and vacation rentals and to spread the tourism across the city in order to help local businesses. They are currently monitoring daily illegal vacation rentals that do not comply with the required standards, they need to get control over these types of accommodations before Savannah becomes Disneyland, full of tourists, carriages and horse without the local flavor of the city. Neighbors Most of the neighbors are negatively affected by Airbnb guests and vacation rentals in Savannah because most of the time travelers are not aware that they are in residential areas with families and children, so they party loud, take off-street parking, and sometimes invade neighbors property. Neighbors are worried of losing the local flavor of Savannah and the city becoming Disneyland because they have lost complete blocks of residential properties that are now vacation rentals, they feel that without locals Savannah cannot be what tourists want, that is why they want to limit the number of vacation rentals. Generally neighbors living next to a vacation rental with the host living in the property are less affected by these accommodations and even sometimes it benefits them, unlike those neighbors living next to vacation rentals that are not controlled by the hosts.
  11. 11. The Big Adventure
  12. 12. Solutions For our offerings, we moved to our final solutions. We narrowed down 12 ideas to 7 final solutions to then prevent to our stakeholders. We evaluated all solutions based on which of our ideas best reflected our research as well as best benefited each stakeholder.
  13. 13. Solution 1: Clear terms
  14. 14. Issues addressed: Confusion between accommodation terms. External investors that don’t live in the city and don’t care about the properties are buying multiple houses to rent. People renting rooms in their residential properties are known as bed & breakfasts and Inns, creating confusion between these types of accommodations. Vacation Rentals are taking affordable housing off the market for citizens. When a vacation rental does not have an on-site manager guests do not received a complete local experience, and sometimes they get out of control affecting the neighbors. Complete neighborhood blocks transformed into vacation rentals. Stakeholders Involved: Hosts City Accommodations Neighbors
  15. 15. Solution: Redefining and adding specifications and limitations for each type of accommodation, plus the introduction of the term “Home sharing” in order to create clearer and simpler terms for citizens. Bed and Breakfast Accommodation for transient guests with 1 to 5 guest rooms with guest common areas, such as a living, a dining room and a garden or backyard. Owners typically live on the property and prepare breakfast in the morning which is generally offered as part of the price. Inn Accommodation for transient guests with more than 8 rooms that offers breakfast and dinner. This type of accommodation is owner- operated or manager-operated, and often the Innkeeper or manager will also live at the property. They are small hotel. Vacation Rentals Accommodation for transient guests where, in exchange for compensation, a residential dwelling unit is provided for lodging for a period of no more than 30 consecutive days. Such use may include an on-site manager (manager living in the city) or off-site manager (manager not living in the city). On-site manager specifications: A person living within the city cannot have more than 20% of the allowed STVR’s specified per neighborhood. If the host/ manager has more than 5 vacation rental, he or she is required to have a co-host per each 5 dwelling units. Understanding by the term of co-host, a person living near the 5 units rented that can take care of the house and the guests. Off-site manager specifications: A person not living within the city cannot rent more than one residential dwelling. Home Sharing Residential dwelling unit containing not more than 4 sleeping rooms that is used and/or advertised for rent for transient occupancy by guests, while at least one of the primary residents lives on-site throughout the visitor’s stay.
  16. 16. Solution 2: Customized Expansion
  17. 17. Issues addressed: Tourism is concentrated in only one area of the city. Only few people can rent or share their dwelling units due the current zoning ordinance. Downtown off-street parking has decreased due the increase of vacation rentals. Tourists having bad experiences because of crime or “bad” neighborhoods can become bad publicity for the city. Complete neighborhood blocks transformed into vacation rentals. Neighbors with families worried about strangers walking around the streets where their children play. Stakeholders Involved: Hosts City Neighbors Guest
  18. 18. Solution: Creating a customized expansion of the current zoning for Vacation Rentals and Home Sharing’s based on a study that takes into consideration the following criteria for each neighborhood: • Demographics • Parking spaces • Atmosphere • Local businesses • Crime rate. Since every neighborhood in Savannah is different, one solution do not fits all. From the study carried out each neighborhood will have different regulations according to its needs and actual context, these regulations include: • Limit on number of STVR per neighborhood. • Limit of Homesharing per neighborhood • Parking lots available for tourists. Hypothetical examples: Neighborhood 1 Study Results • Mostly Residential • Families • Calm and quiet. • Limited parking lots • Safe Neighborhood 2 Study Results • Nightlife • Youngsters • Trendy and active • Available Parking • Safe Neighborhood 1 Regulations • 0 Vacation rentals allowed • Unlimited Home sharing • Not suitable for travelers with cars Neighborhood 2 Regulations • 18 vacation rentals allowed • Unlimited Home sharing • 23 parking spaces, suitable for travelers with cars.
  19. 19. Hypothetical example: A group of friends are coming to Savannah, GA for a bachelorette party, they want to have fun and have their own house so they can prepare breakfast for the future bride. They can select the “Party Trip” in the filters, and Airbnb will redirect them to a neighborhood in Savannah where they can be loud without affecting the neighbors, and where it’s full of young people and pubs. Airbnb Involved: This study will not only help the city to know each neighborhood better and to regulate the number of vacation rentals and home sharing, but also will help the city to be placed into “Airbnb Neighborhoods” page, which shows featured neighborhoods with their description, suggested activities and labels. We are suggesting that Airbnb can include inside its filters the following purposes of trip options, so when a traveler chooses his/her purpose of trip, Airbnb will redirect the user and show him/her the ideal neighborhoods for her vacations. Purpose of trip: Romance • New Life • Family • Solo Traveling • Business • Wellness • Party Trip • City Break • Wedding
  20. 20. Solution 3: Restructuring Taxes
  21. 21. Issues addressed: Hosts are confused because they are paying a hotel/motel tax without being one. Neighborhoods are not getting the benefits  from the taxes. Self-reported tax process based on trust, the revenue department doesn’t has the security of receiving the right amount of taxes from hosts. People renting their houses for only a few weekends during the year have to pay the complete hotel/motel tax. Stakeholders Involved: Hosts City Neighbors Accommodations
  22. 22. Solution: Change the name To avoid confusion with the term hotel/ motel tax between vacation rentals and home sharing owners, were are proposing to change the name of the tax to “Lodging Tax” which involves all types of accommodations that provide this service to travelers. Re framing the use: % Percent of the total hotel/motel taxes collected in the city is used for the purpose of promoting tourism, conventions, and trade shows under a contract with a private sector nonprofit organization, and the other % percent is used for the purpose of either marketing or operating trade and convention facilities. Since vacation rentals and home sharing’s are across the city and not only in the touristic area, we are proposing that the taxes collected from these 2 types of accommodations can be restructured to be used % percent for the purpose of promoting tourism, and the % remaining for the purpose of renovating and fixing the neighborhoods where this vacation rentals and home sharing’s operate. New Exemption For people renting their houses for a few weekends during the year it is not fair for them to pay taxes as a complete business, for that reason we are proposing to create an exemption for those hosts gaining less than $2,000 USD per month. Airbnb Involved: Airbnb can partner with Savannah, GA. to start collecting lodging taxes on behalf of hosts, facilitating the mechanism and providing millions of dollars in revenue to the city annually, with the exact information and amount from each host in the city, allowing the state to focus on broader issues regarding Airbnb-type businesses. Airbnb has done this with 200 cities including: Los Angeles, Connecticut, France, India, Netherlands, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Anchorage Alaska, Palo Alto, and Florida.
  23. 23. Solution 4: STVR Website
  24. 24. Issues addressed: Long an analog application process. Confusion about which areas are allowed to have vacation rentals and home sharing’s. Neighbors calling the police and not knowing how to act when they live next to a vacation rental. Unauthorized listings operating in the city. Misinformation of where vacation rentals and home sharing are operating. Tourists taking the limited off-street and on-street parking from locals. Applicants have to wait for the zoning department to check and approve their application. Stakeholders Involved: Hosts City Neighbors Guest
  25. 25. Solution: An all-in one website for Vacation Rentals and home sharing with the following features: Online application process Website tab where applicants can start their registration process by filling up their information, creating a profile and searching the address where they want to have these types of accommodations. The appliers will be able to check if in a map of the city how many permits are still available in each neighborhood and come back to make changes in their profiles which will update the database automatically. Parking Availability Website tab displaying a map with the parking spots available in the city that tourists can book and pay for parking their vehicles. These parking spaces can be uploaded by the tourism department and by citizens that have available spaces in their residences, providing an extra income for neighbors. Map Online map showing all the active and certified listings of vacation rentals and home sharing in the area, allowing neighbors to know how many short term renting dwellings are around their home and providing the contact information of each one of them. Ordinance Website tab displaying a clear and quick list of the local regulations released by the city council to make the website a one-stop shop for referring to the new and upcoming rules and regulations. Neighbors Tab specially designed for neighbors living next to a vacation rental and/or home sharing with contact information and tips of how to act with issues regarding these accommodations. Airbnb Involved We are proposing a new feature for Airbnb named “Airbnb Parking” where Airbnb users can list their underused spaces to provide cheaper and more convenient parking for guests traveling with cars. Guests can book, schedule and pay for this parking spots in the Airbnb app and website and park there if their house don’t have a parkings space. With this new feature Airbnb can provide a better trip experience for those roadtrippers, open more opportunities to locals with underused spaces, and giving a better chance for hosts withouts parkings to be booked.
  26. 26. Solution 6: Renovate and Rent
  27. 27. Issues addressed: Unused old buildings in Savannah, GA. Neighbors believe hosts are not helping the city. Savannah, GA. received a great amount of people that travel for work. Hosts are buying houses and renovating them  in poor neighborhoods. Historic buildings, by law, cannot be demolished and owners have to reutilizes those spaces. Stakeholders Involved: Hosts City Neighbors Guest
  28. 28. Solution: In order to bring back to life the historic buildings from Savannah, GA and give them a new use, we are proposing a partnership between the city and/or the citizens - depending who owns the building - and Airbnb to transform these buildings with great potential into new spaces such as offices, meeting rooms, pop up stores for entrepreneurs, and galleries for artists. Business travelers that come to the city to work for a period of time, or even citizens that can’t find a place to have meetings or show their art, can use these spaces that suddenly can become networking platforms since different professionals and entrepreneurs are working in the same place. These new spaces can also be transformed into workshop facilities where travelers can share their experiences with locals, like filmmakers that come to Savannah. Airbnb Involved We are presenting to Airbnb a new feature and a new branch for their brand named “Airbnb Spaces”, which is focused on leisure (business + leisure) travelers. Guests can go to the Airbnb app and book an office, a gallery, or a meeting room for a period of time and according to their needs and number of attendees. With this new feature Airbnb can target a new sector of tourists and will bring locals and travelers together to  share  their  passions. Before After
  29. 29. Solution 7: Boosting Local Economy
  30. 30. Issues addressed: Tourism is centralized in one space. Travelers are not experiencing the real essence of the city. Local businesses far from downtown are not benefiting from tourism. Stakeholders Involved: City Guest
  31. 31. Have a local experience! You are near Foxy Loxy Café, try it out!
  32. 32. Solution: Partnership between Savannah and Airbnb to promote the hidden jewels of the city inside its “places” tab, that will allow the city to spread the tourism around Savannah and help those small businesses that offer great services, but that now do not receive a lot of attention. Currently this feature shows inside a map the places nearby the guest, and displays a little description of it, so we are proposing a new update for this feature: Each of the local businesses that are part of the Airbnb community will receive a customized stamp with the legend “Have a local experience”, and every time Airbnb users are near one of this hidden jewels the app will send a notification to their phones telling them they are close to an Airbnb space where they will be able to get special offers, such as a unique menu experience or great deals, offering a more directly local experience to guests that would get more engaged and involved with the city personality.
  33. 33. Solution 8: Airbnb Opportunities
  34. 34. Issues addressed: Travelers are not giving back to the community. Travelers do not care about the city they are visiting. Stakeholders Involved: City Guest Neighbors
  35. 35. Solution: A new feature for Airbnb named “Airbnb Opportunities” where guests that are staying in an Airbnb will unlock a variety of volunteering/collaboration opportunities to perform while they are traveling in exchange of “Airbnb Credits” that they can spend in local businesses partnered with Airbnb or in their future bookings. This opportunities can be uploaded by local businesses, neighbors, tourism platforms and Savannah’s tourism department, and will range from different tasks such as helping in local events, planting trees, volunteering to help tourists in a tour, and spend some hours helping in a local business, all with the same goal of helping the community. Before applying to these opportunities each guest has to upload their skills in their Airbnb profiles, this will help them to filter those opportunities that are perfect to them and that will give them a pleasant local experience. Once they apply, the “employers” will receive a notification and will be able to match those volunteers that they consider are the best for the opportunity, getting the best experience from both parts. This feature has the opportunity to expand to a greater online job system where travelers who like the city can find long term jobs and move in.