The popular booking site (which now also includes experiences as well as accommodation) has undoubtedly changed the landscape of travel. But has this always been a good thing? In this post, I’m going to look at the pros on cons of Airbnb, as I see them.
- When Airbnb arrived on the scene just over 10 years ago, it opened up a gazillion more options for tourists and visitors who no longer needed to be at the behest of hotels, B&Bs and possibly friends. My first stay was with a lady in Surrey, who hosted me for a friend’s wedding, and her house was on the same street as the wedding venue. It was far, far cheaper, easier and homelier than it would have been staying on my own in an overpriced hotel two miles away. Amen for Airbnb.
- You get to meet local people. This is often hard in countries where the hospitality industry relies on overseas staff (such as London). With Airbnb, you get to chat to a host who knows the area and who can give you the lowdown on where to go and what to do. My Surrey host mentioned above even drove me to the train station the next morning.
- It’s cosier than a hotel or B&B. Because you’re renting someone’s home or a room in their home, it has a warmer, friendlier feel than other less personal accommodation options. Sometimes you can use the kitchen and washing machine and sit in the garden with a morning coffee. Things you might do in your own home.
- For hosts, Airbnb can be a great little earner. Anyone who has a spare room can rent it out or can vacate their home for a few nights and earn extra income (check your local council or government website as to how much you can legally earn – in the UK, under the government’s Rent a Room scheme, it’s currently £7,500 tax-free per year).
- Hosts get to meet guests from all over the world, and thus learn about other cultures and make new friends. It does wonders for international relations.
- Because it’s easy for anyone to rent out their spare room on Airbnb, the long-term room rental market has taken a hit, causing something of a housing crisis in places where demand has far outstripped supply. If you’re a lodger looking for a room, you now either have to go through Airbnb itself, or pay above-market rates, which, in short, sucks.
- You’re staying in someone’s house. This means you have to abide by their rules, and if your host is also staying there, you can sometimes feel like you’re invading their space and treading on eggshells.
- The dreaded “cleaning fee”. This has snuck in over recent years, and in my opinion, has no place on any kind of booking – no other service I can think of adds it, and it smacks of cashing in. If you’re renting out a room to a stranger (or a friend), it’s implied that it will be clean. Unless you’re a rock star or monster, chances are you’re not going to do anything that’s going to necessitate dry cleaning the velvet curtains.
- Some cities have become saturated (Lisbon, Berlin, New York and Cape Town, to name a few). This has had a negative effect on local people who can’t afford to rent an apartment in their area because Airbnb entrepreneurs are buying up properties (or renting them, if they’re allowed to), and turning them into listings on Airbnb.
- The security can sometimes be iffy. As a woman traveller or host, you have to be doubly sure you know who you’re staying with (or hosting). The rating system and reviews are good, but in my experience, they often don’t paint the whole picture as most people feel rude leaving a negative review. So it’s up to each party to read between the lines and ask questions, or often “go with their instinct”. I once stayed in a beautiful home in Port Elizabeth, but once I stepped outside the gates I was the target of a mugging. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt, only badly shaken up, but lesson learned.
So that’s it! Please leave me a comment – I’d love to hear about your Airbnb experiences, both good and bad. And if you’ve not yet joined, you can use my links to get a discount on your first stay or listing. The link for guests is here (for guests) and the link for hosts here.*
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