Representing the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management, from left, Associate Professor Cheri Young, student Malia Bacig and Assistant Professor Karen Xie all won big at the Global Tourism & Hospitality Conference in Hong Kong.

The Law of Attraction holds true in science and romance, but what about on Airbnb?

The phenomenon of like attracting like on peer-to-peer room-sharing services was explored by Daniels College of Business faculty member Karen Xie in her innovative paper, “Buyer-Seller Similarity: Does it Affect Repeat Patronage of Peer-to-Peer Room-Sharing Services?” The paper—co-authored with Linchi Kwok, assistant professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona—received top honors at the Global Tourism & Hospitality Conference in Hong Kong earlier this month. Xie, assistant professor in the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management, traveled to the conference, which is sponsored by the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, to collect the “Best Paper Award” in person.

“We’re excited about this work because it is the first attempt to empirically investigate user behavior in accommodation sharing outside western markets,” said Xie. “Compared to western travelers, who tend to be novelty seeking, we explored whether eastern travelers are more conservative in choosing stranger hosts for accommodation sharing. We used a similarity-attraction paradigm augmented with big data analytics to investigate whether demographic similarity matters to eastern travelers when choosing stranger hosts in accommodation sharing.”

Using data from Xiaozhu.com, a leading room-sharing website in China, Xie studied thousands of renters and hosts who booked and let properties over a four-year period in Beijing, one of the nation’s top tourism destinations and room-sharing markets. Armed with more than 67,000 observations of renter and host behavior, Xie found that the more similarities shared between renters and hosts—including age, birthplace and educational background—the greater likelihood those individuals will do repeat business with each other.

“Specifically, similarities in age and education between hosts and renters are particularly salient in affecting repeat patronage, i.e., in increasing the number of rental transactions between the same renter and host over time,” writes Xie.

Among the practical implications of Xie’s findings is that peer-to-peer room-sharing websites—and possibly other “P2P sharing economy platforms”—will be able to foster repeat patronage by matching sellers/hosts with buyers/renters of similar ages and similar educational backgrounds.

This tactic might also benefit hotels, according to Xie. If consumers identify specific traits with certain hotels they believe match their own personalities, they’re likely to select those hotels over others. “We hence recommend hoteliers to clearly define or brand their hotels with strong ‘personas’ that match with the ones of their target customers in order to stand out from the competitors and ultimately increase sales,” she writes.

Xie also encourages hotels to employ big data in determining their target demographics, urging them “to churn out the burgeoning volume of transactional data that is traced from the internet to identify the multi-faceted preferences of customers as they shape the brand images of a lodging product.”

In addition to Xie’s award, the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management had an additional victory at the 2017 Global Tourism & Hospitality Conference when Knoebel student Malia Bacig won the Undergraduate Research Championship.