Put on your sunglasses and smile: The secret of Airbnb hosts’ profile photos?

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On Airbnb, profile photos play a crucial role in decision-making. This paper examines how hosts’ profile photos—specifically, gender, facial expression and the presence of sunglasses—affect guests’ intentions to trust and book. An experiment was conducted to seek both close- and open-ended responses (N=524), the former analyzed statistically and the latter thematically. According to the quantitative results, female hosts were preferred to males. Positive facial expressions outperformed neutral ones. A significant interaction effect emerged such that the positive effect of a positive facial expression was stronger when sunglasses were present (vs. absent). Moreover, a mediated moderation was identified: The interaction between facial expression and the use of sunglasses on intention to book was mediated by intention to trust. Themes from the qualitative analysis complement and extend the quantitative results. Overall, the paper adds to the literature on online profile photos in the context of peer-to-peer tourism and hospitality platforms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103219
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Hospitality Management
Early online date18 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

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© 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Airbnb
  • facial expression
  • gender
  • peer-to-peer
  • profile photo
  • sharing economy

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