Digital Business and Travel

Italy has always been on my travel bucket list for many years. Recently, my boyfriend and I booked a trip to Italy in Spring 2016 as a graduation present for business school. While emailing countless people for hotel recommendations and sites to see, I began to think about how travel has changed recently, particularly through social media and digital business.

The three primary ways that travel has changed is due to the sharing economy (ie: Airbnb), social reviews, and social media sites.

Sharing Economy and Travel

In a recent Social Media class, we discussed the implications of sharing economy. An article by MIT Sloan Management Review states that “while individuals are traditionally often seen ownership as the most desireable way to have access to share products and services rather than buy or own them.” This idea is also known as “collaborative consumption.” Rachel Botsman also discusses this idea in her Tedtalk.

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This idea of “sharing economy’ is growing rapidly. This same MIT Sloan Management Review article notes that in 2025, the sharing economy in five main sectors would represent $335 B in revenue worldwide. One particular example of sharing economy who is making headway in current society is Airbnb. Airbnb also exemplifies how travel has changed over the years due to sharing economy and collaborative consumption.

Airbnb is a “peer to peer online marketplace and homestay network that enables people to list or rent short term lodging in residential properties. It was founded in 2008 in San Francisco. Airbnb is a resource that allows you to “borrow” other peoples homes for a fee. Because of Airbnb, a user is able to visit different areas and get a taste of the actual culture that exists in that particular location. As a particular example, when I first graduated college, I lived in Boston and worked in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. After about two months of commuting the two hours each way, I decided to rent a room in Providence once a week to alleviate the stress of driving so much each day. Without Airbnb, this wouldn’t be possible. When it comes to travel, more and more people are renting homes on Airbnb, rather than spending money on a hotel. The ability to rent a home or apartment from someone who lives in the new town, city, or country, that you are visiting, allows a more authentic trip. It provides an ability to immerse yourself fully into the culture of the place you are visiting.

Airbnb recently expanded its business ventures into “Trips,” which gives you the ability to plan excursions with locals to gain a better understanding of what it is actually like to live there.



Airbnb Trips includes both “Experiences, and Places. In addition, this company will also expand into flights and transportation to become a more comprehensive experience. A recent New York Times article discusses Trips and it’s potential: “Trips is an immense program of both vertical and horizontal expansion into Airbnb’s business model.”  It shows how Airbnb hopes to transition into an Expedia like model and offer a comprehensive travel resource. When it comes to planning our own trip to Italy, we may leverage this site to gain a deeper understanding of where to go.

Review Websites:

Another resource that has been helpful to plan our trip to Italy are online reviews. There are many websites that can help to find the best hotels as well as things to do. An example of a site that does this is Tripadvisor. On this site, the user indicates when and where you are going. Tripadvisor will then provide a list of things to do, hotels, restaurants, etc in the area. The value of Tripadvisor when planning a trip is its social reviews and social network. Thousands of people provide reviews and star ratings on different aspects of your trip. Tripadvisor has been a great resource for planning our own trip as it provides real life feedback on those who actually have been to the place rather than what a hotel site may indicate about its own hotel. Along this note, Tripadvisor provides both “Professional pictures” as well as “Traveler’s pictures,” which gives the user a comparison of what the hotel wants it to look like as compared to a real experience.


Social Media:

The final resource that we leveraged to plan our trip is social media sites. There are countless ways to leverage Instagram, Facebook, etc to gain recommendations for travel plans. For example, on Instagram, you can search in tags certain locations, etc to look for recommendations in particular locations. This article by Fommers shows the top 25 best travel Instagram accounts.

Here are a few examples:





In addition to Instagram, there are social blogs that provide recommendations and information on real experiences. For example, Lesley Murphy, has a blog titles “Les Road Les Traveled.” The blog provides a real world experience of the travels that she has taken over time. It provides an idea of where to go and what to do while you are there.


Here is a list of the top 10 travel blogs.





As you can see, planning a trip has changed completely over recent years due to social media and digital business. There are countless resources to find recommendations on trips. It has become much easier to find ideas of what to do in a new place. Right now, there is a heavy reliance on these sites. While Tripadvisor may be a good resource to find more common things to do, blogs and Instagram accounts provide information about things to do that are more off the beaten path. It is necessary to balance all these sites in order to plan a fun and interesting trip.


  1. francoismba · ·

    Great read! I plan on booking a trip (also a graduation present) over the holiday break and am already overwhelmed by all of the research that I will need to do. However, I will have to take advantage of some of the resources you mentioned above, especially Airbnb Trips. I love how Airbnb allows you to fully immerse yourself in the city that you are staying. Do you foresee Airbnb expanding into other collaborative environments such as airplanes or boats?

  2. rohansuwarna · ·

    I think sooner or later we can certainly see Airbnb expanding its business operations. Their “Trips” expansion is a great first step, however I can see them almost causing the demise of Tripadvisor and Expedia. Since Airbnb allows average consumers and producers to exchange, causing an increase in total surplus, with little middleman interference, it will continue to thrive. I feel like they should consider expanding more so in the travel industry with planes, cruise lines, and trains.

  3. Great post, and I totally agree. I think you’re missing one, though, Google Maps. I’m much more confident wandering strange cities when I have a GPS enabled map in my pocket!

  4. Interesting post! I’m currently navigating the exciting and sometimes sketchy world of discount airfare for an upcoming trip and would love the convenience of a site like Airbnb throwing its hat into the ring. It has definitely revolutionized lodging, and there is no reason that it should stop there. One thing that has always made me a bit hesitant on travel social networks, like TripAdvisor, is the potential for smaller companies to write fake reviews of themselves and their competition, like the Yelp case that we discussed earlier this semester. Did you come across any work about these sort of challenges?

  5. holdthemayo4653 · ·

    Great post! I hadn’t heard of the Airbnb trips feature. I recently planned a trip to Hawaii and did a TON of research on tripadvisor and frommers. I thought that all my research would be using digital channels but I also broke down a bought a travel book. It was really nice to be able to read it on the plane and to flip through it in the hotel when looking for a restaurant. For me, I like using all channels to get the best experience!

  6. Austin Ellis · ·

    Very good post! I am anxious to try using Airbnb trips, it seems exciting. The ad does a good job of suggesting what the experience could be like. Although I have only used Airbnb once before, I enjoyed my stay and my hosts, who seemed to embody the friendly neighbour mentality. They took us to events, hosted a party, and I even game one a ride to work when her car was towed. I think the incorporation of trips into Airbnb’s platform will be a perfect way for the app to expand while continuing along its core value of connecting people.

  7. magicjohnshin1 · ·

    Thanks for all this information! I echo a lot of your sentiments on how digital business has revolutionized , and is continuing to transform, the traveling industry. As a graduating senior, I’m also finding time to travel and I realized that I am fully dependent on online websites to provide suggestions and recommendations. I can’t imagine traveling without Airbnb anymore, and even within the realm of Airbnb, I can’t imagine booking without reading through the reviews. The fact that other generations were unable to do this is extremely surprising, and I am only glad that these platforms exist for us. I can only imagine the amount of jobs and work that were created as a result of this digital travel boom, but I think all parties benefit from this creation. Meanwhile, I’ll be checking out some of the blogs you mentioned to seek inspiration for my next trip! Cheers!

  8. daniellep2153 · ·

    Awesome Post! I have used Airbnb many times and had wonderful experiences with each vacation. However, I wasn’t aware of the new service they now offer. It is such a great idea to incorporate with this business model. I also regularly use social media platforms when planning trips, especially if I’ve never been to my destination before. I will definitely keep each of these platforms in mind as I plan my next adventure!

  9. This was extremely helpful considering the fact that me and a few friends are currently planning a trip to Montreal. We talked about AirBnb but none of us have actually used it so we discarded the idea but after reading this blog I definitely would be willing to try it. My only question about AirBnb is will it run into a lot of the same problems that Uber has had in the past because their business models are so similar? They’ve gotten a lot heat in recent years for their lack-of screening on some of their drivers because there has become so many of them that a few slip through the cracks. Could the same thing happen with the hosts on AirBnb as the company continues to grow? I do think that the “Trips” concept is a really good idea because like you said, it allows AirBnb to expand their business model immensely. Great post overall.

  10. Good read and you have hit upon some of my favorite travel blogs. I am a avid Airbnb user, but I think they need to do a lot more to enter the business travel market. As of today I have logged about 124,000 miles flown spending close to 60 nights in hotels and non of it with Airbnb. all of my Airbnb use has been for personal travel and while I have always liked the service. There is no way for me to leverage it for work.

    So much travel is for business and the sharing economy needs to find ways to step into that market.

  11. cmackeenbc · ·

    Nice work! I am a big fan of Airbnb as it allowed me to have some really unique experiences abroad last spring. I also mostly use Instagram to find places to go and things to do when I am in a new place, so those travel accounts are really useful. It is so interesting how these social media platforms have exposed me to places and experiences I would have never otherwise thought to go! I do agree with the above comment from @mwlbc that Airbnb will need to aggressively pursue business travellers if they wish to become serious in the travel market. Despite its successes, there is a lot that can go wrong with an Airbnb booking that may pose a problem for those on business trips. Hotels (most of the time) offer a consistent experience that can be counted on to be similar across the country and even across the globe. Maybe if Airbnb developed a section for business travellers with “accredited Airbnbs” that could be counted on to be clean, in a central location, and convenient, they could successfully pursue that market segment. Great post!

  12. As I prepare to leave for study abroad next semester, I definitely agree that I relied a lot on TripAdvisor and online social media blogs to determine my travel plans. I remember when I was younger, my parents would just book our hotels for vacations directly with the hotel; nowadays, though, it seems more preferred for my generation to just check out hostels and AirBnBs online; I think it’s that factor of knowing how other people have experienced their stay influences a lot on the participation of consumers in the sharing economy.

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