Despite ongoing controversy in New York and other cities about the rules of private home renting, Airbnb continues to flourish in a top destination for users of the vacation rental listing service: Brooklyn. Now, Airbnb is getting cozy with local business owners in that NYC borough and rolling out a pilot program intended to boost tourism and the money that comes with it.
Airbnb announced a partnership with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce that will connect Airbnb hosts and small business owners in their neighborhoods to find ways of supporting one another’s endeavors. This comes down to Airbnb hosts promoting local businesses to guests, and business owners accommodating Airbnb-renting tourists.
In addition to sponsoring a Chamber-run website for what’s being dubbed Explore Brooklyn, Airbnb will give the Chamber money to pay a “neighborhood outreach organizer” to serve as a liaison between hosts and local business owners.
“We’ve never really done anything like this before,” Molly Turner, of Airbnb, told Crain’s New York. “The more we can encourage Airbnb hosts to build personal relationships with the businesses in their neighborhood to learn what’s new in their neighborhood, events that are going on, block parties, gallery walks, borough-wide events — the more we can help our hosts get access to local knowledge, the better experience they can provide to their guests.”
Share Better, which is opposed to the inequities of the so-called “sharing economy,” sees the deal as “another transaction for Airbnb to try and buy goodwill when their operation is unequivocally exacerbating the affordable housing crisis in New York City,” Share Better spokesperson Austin Shafran told Crain’s.
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carlo Scissura is emphasizing the possibility of getting tourists to branch out from downtown Brooklyn and Williamsburg and explore neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bay Ridge.
The Chamber teamed up with Google last year when the tech giant agreed to commit $25,000 to help small businesses in low-income communities achieve a greater online presence.
If the Explore Brooklyn pilot is successful, Airbnb could roll out the program to other neighborhoods and cities.
Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.