Reframing rurality: the impact of Airbnb on second home communities in Wales and Sweden

Bailey Ashton Adie, Cecilia de Bernardi, Alberto Amore

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    Research on the rise of Airbnb and similar sharing economy platforms is gaining momentum, yet it predominantly focuses on urban or mature coastal destinations. To date, research on these platforms in second home destinations in rural areas is limited. In particular, the impact of sharing platform users on countryside second home communities is mostly understudied. The phenomenon of second homes in rural areas across Europe is closely tied to the imagery of rurality in opposition to urbanity. Over the years, small townships in the countryside saw the rise of second homeowners, resulting in changes in the local socio-economic environment. While the second home tradition, particularly in Scandinavia, is often tied to historic seasonal population movements from city to rural areas for utilitarian reasons, recent second home acquisitions are often tied to shifting populations, particularly from rural to urban areas. Second homes in these areas are often a mix of inherited familial homesteads and purpose-bought properties, both underpinned by feelings of place attachment. While there exists literature on the interactions of second home communities and primary residents, we argue that the influence of sharing platforms within this mixed community injects an additional level of spatial interaction and conceptualization of place. To this end, this chapter presents evidence from two established second home destinations (Snowdonia in the UK and specific areas of the Dalarna, Härjedalen and Jämtland regions in Sweden), where the proliferation of properties listed on Airbnb is currently contributing to the reframing of the existing rural landscape. The need for research into sharing platforms and second homes has been noted in the literature (Marjavaara, Müller, & Back, 2019), and our research seeks to fill this noted gap, albeit with a specific focus on rural areas. The emphasis on the rural allows for a more focused comparative analysis of these two contexts where Airbnb is at different stages of development without the spatial and population complexities inherent in urban environments. Using available data covering the period from 2013 to 2019, this study suggests that there is a separate but connected layer of spatial interaction inherent in rural environments that house these communities, and this, in turn, is mediated by the varying levels of place attachment and perceptions of rural space of the three user groups: primary residents, second homeowners, and Airbnb users. Based on the findings from this comparative analysis, recommendations can be made in order to enhance the social sustainability and resilience of these rural communities. More specifically, this work will articulate the complexities of different user types inhabiting the same space but interpreting it differently, which will in turn allow for rural community planners to mediate potential problems and develop strategies for future developments in order to ensure sustainable user behaviour.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPeer-to-Peer Accommodation and Community Resilience
    EditorsAnna Farmaki, Stella Kladou, Dimitri Ioannides
    PublisherCAB International
    ISBN (Electronic)9781789246629
    ISBN (Print)9781789246605
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2022


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