As part of the Open Data Institute’s innovation programme, we are working to understand how data can improve the peer-to-peer accommodation market to support businesses and communities, and improve the experience of consumers.

Peer-to-peer accommodation services and marketplaces are emerging across a wide range of sectors and geographical areas. Each day many consumers, businesses and communities use them to make decisions – such as where to stay when on holiday, whether to use a service to let a spare room or how to build a business in popular areas. To make those decisions, people need data.

Through desk research, we have tried to understand how national and local governments have sought to manage the impact of peer-to-peer letting; the issues they have sought to address; and the interventions they have chosen to use.

What we have learned

We assessed 35 different approaches to intervention from around the world to understand: which approaches are implemented or discussed; what aspects of peer-to-peer accommodation are addressed and how; and, the role data plays in supporting the different approaches. We did not assess whether the interventions were appropriate or not: our goal in this part of our research was to increase our understanding of what local and national governments have decided to do, why and how.

Most interventions by local or national authorities had four main goals:

  • Prioritising long-term housing (23 cases)
  • Tax collection (14 cases, mostly concerned with tourist/city taxes)
  • Improving service quality (seven cases)
  • Improving health and safety (five cases)

We identified three key areas of regulation: host behaviour; the property/room itself; and peer-to-peer accommodation platform operators.

Data related to these interventions is collected by a range of actors, including platform operators, hosts and public authorities. We found examples of both personal and non-personal data shared between hosts, platform operators and public authorities, but we found limited examples of data being made publicly available.

Although we found some good examples of data sharing, various elements of the broader data policy debate, such as open-by-default data policies; measures to improve the free flow of data to boost competition and innovation; individual control over personal data; and registers of authoritative data, were not considered in the local debates and interventions we explored. As well as improving the effectiveness of current interventions and related needs, these are all areas that may support new approaches.

Next Steps

As part of the overall research, the ODI has been engaging with key stakeholders in the sector through interviews and workshops, including with: platform operators; platform users; estate agents; renters’ associations; local authorities; and blue light services. We also organised three workshops in partnership with the ODINode network: in London, Cardiff and Dundee. This approach gave us a firsthand overview of different user experiences as well as the main topics of interest for people involved in the sector (looking at the general economic, social, housing, and safety aspects), while also testing our findings as we developed them.

Our report, User analysis of peer-to-peer accommodation stakeholders, was pulled together using findings from the interviews. This document is open for comments and contributions.

This process has allowed us to identify needs across the sector to highlight priorities for next steps.

This research is feeding into our exploration of three areas in the peer-to-peer accommodation sector:

  • Data portability

We are exploring what a right to data portability might mean in the peer-to-peer accommodation sector, both in terms of the opportunities for innovation, the types of services that could be enabled, and the potential risks for individuals, businesses and society more generally.

  • Data observatory

Throughout our research, the theme of measuring the impact of the peer-to-peer accommodation sector has come up time and time again. We are exploring how a data observatory could help to bring together data from a variety of contexts to help people understand both the positive and negative impacts of the sector. Improving this understanding will support people to make better decisions, such as whether or not a national or local government should intervene, or to understand the impact of an intervention over time.

  • Local data

We are exploring how platforms might interact with local open data. Our user research has indicated that information about sport and physical activities is of interest to travellers. Therefore, we are creating some basic prototypes using sport and physical activity data – made available through the OpenActive initiative – to explore the feasibility of interacting with local open data, and the different kinds of interactions which may happen. We are seeking to understand how open data can support innovation and bolster local economies and community participation.

We want your feedback

To develop and test things that are useful, we need to work with people across the sector. If you are interested, please:

We are focusing our initial research and prototyping in the UK, and keen to expand the work in future to other countries to understand user needs in different contexts. Get in touch with [email protected] or [email protected] if you would like to work with us.

Read full report