If you google “vacation rental industry”, the first few pages are purely about its explosive growth. Article upon article explore the various reasons why, but one of the key reasons this: folksonomy.
What is Folksonomy?
The source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, explains:
“Tags show interconnections of concepts that were formerly unknown to a user. Therefore, a user’s current cognitive constructs may be modified or augmented by the metadata information found in aggregated social tags. This process promotes knowledge acquisition through cognitive irritation and equilibration. This theoretical framework is known as the co-evolution model of individual and collective knowledge.”
Breaking that down, folksonomy is the ecosystem that occurs from the interaction of user, tag, and resource. By using technology, people are able to experience and learn new things through a connection with another person(s).
For example, lets say a newspaper publishes an article about the creation of a new breed of cat. Then a breeder comes along and reads the article, and tags it as “New Breed of Cat”. From there, other breeders and cat enthusiasts can find that article using that tag’s keywords. The article then sparks a conversation about the ethics of creating this new breed of cat. That conversation, the interaction of individuals facilitated by the tagging of the article, is folksonomy. What does it have to do with vacation rentals? A lot. But first we have to talk about my phone. It’s relevant, I promise.
I was late to the smart phone game. From 2011 onward, I had a Blackberry with no internet plan and I loved it. People could call or text me. That was it. One of the biggest reasons I held out is that I hated how everyone around me was always face first in their phones. I would see couples out on dates, but they wouldn’t be talking to each other- they would be scrolling on their devices. Friend groups, my own included, would hang out and the entire night would be cast in the blue light from the phones glued to their hands.
I worried about being too ‘plugged in’. I worried it was robbing people of their ability to connect; that they were too distracted by their screens to enjoy the people, scenery, and experiences around them. I found solidarity in the fact that I was not the only one. I read article upon article about the demise of personal interaction and social queues, the spike in anxiety upon face to face contact, and even the extrapolation that someday we would all literally be connected to our devices.
Then in 2015…everything changed. I was gifted a smartphone. It’s the same one I have to this day, actually. Real talk?At first I was completely overwhelmed by the technology. I was paranoid about giving Apple my fingerprint. The last thing I wanted to do was link my bank account to Apple Wallet. What if someone stole my phone? Then they would have my money and my fingerprints! They could steal my identity by stealing my phone. On top of that, people could message me on Facebook; tag me in something on Instagram; call me; send me a text message; my work could invite me to a conference; and I would get all the notifications at once. There was no separation. My whole life was in my hand. I felt too connected.
That feeling didn’t last long though. It was slowly replaced by a new feeling. If I got lost, I could look up directions from my exact location to where I needed to go. If I wondered what sushi places were within 2 miles of me, I could find that out in under five seconds. I got used to the barrage of notifications. I still avoid Apple Wallet like the plague.
Initially I thought that it was the convenience that hooked me, but I gradually realized it wasn’t about convenience, it was about this new form of connection. I was hooked on how easy it was to try new things; being able to talk to anyone instantly via their preferred app; being able to read the newspaper and learn something brand new during a ten minute train ride. I had the ability to connect to all aspects of the world around me in the palm of my hand.
I loved my new piece of technology because of folksonomy.
Back to the Future
So, back to the vacation rental industry exploding. With this context, it makes complete sense. The world is smaller and connecting with others is easier. Technology facilitating folksonomy, and then folksonomy catalyzing connection, is one of the best things that ever happened to the vacation rental industry. And it’s only going to get better. It is increasing people’s desire to experience new things, to meet new people, and learn about things they’re not familiar with. All of these motivations are not just massive drives for travel in general, but also for staying in a vacation rental. A chain hotel has a ‘blank canvas’ aspect to it: white sheets, bad coffee, tiny soap…which is precisely the opposite of what the folksonomy driven traveler wants. This tech enabled explorer wants an experience authentic to the area. They want to meet new friends. They want to view the scenery through the eyes of a local. They want to connect with what that area of the world is really like. And guess what travel accommodations do all of those things?
Vacation rentals. Boom.