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Trying to bring cultural connectedness to the sharing economy

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Trying to bring cultural connectedness to the sharing economy

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I recently looked at a new travel guide website that aimed to provide more of a tailored and home grown approach to identifying must see sites.  The site encourages local people to sign up and act as guides.  A traveler could then browse through the profiles of various locals and find one that best fits their personality, and they can then access the recommended sights from a person that is both in the know, but also quite like them.

A new site is aiming to take a similar approach, albeit in the sharing economy travel market that has been pioneered by the Airbnb’s of the world.  The site, called PandaBed, aims to match up travelers with homeowners that share their cultural or religious beliefs.

The company are based in Singapore but have operations all across Asia.  The business model they follow is largely that of Airbnb in that they allow home owners to rent out their un-used space to those seeking short term accommodation.  Where they differ however is that they aim to cater more specifically for the Asian market by better matching the buyer and seller according to the cultural beliefs of each party.

They do this via their PeerMatch feature, which gives each host the option to significantly narrow their potential tenants down according to the criteria they specify.  They may for instance choose only to rent to people of a particular faith or to people who don’t drink.  You wouldn’t want to pair a Muslim guest with a family that drinks, for instance.

The hope is that by offering this kind of facility to home owners, it will make many more of them comfortable with the concept of opening their home up to strangers.  Whilst the concept has clearly taken off in the west, there is still a degree of reluctance around the concept in Asia.

Whilst it’s an interesting approach, there are concerns around equality.  After all, only last year a bed and breakfast in Cornwall was shut down by the Supreme Court after they refused access to a gay couple.  The couple were refused access to the property because the owners believed gay relations to be a ‘sin’ on religious grounds.

Is it possible to marry greater cultural acceptance with equality in circumstances such as this?

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