In defence of Airbnb

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Following the criticism of Airbnb on this site last week, Kaye Holland flocks to the online marketplace and hospitality service’s defence

If you’re travel minded – and, if you’re reading Just About Travel, the likelihood is that you are – it’s hard to imagine life without Airbnb, the San Francisco-based Airbnb room/house letting website which has been valued at $30 billion.

Last week, Adrian highlighted the dark side of Airbnb – read how Airbnb is disrupting the hotel industry (if travellers are checking into Airbnb abodes, then they aren’t staying at hotels, hostels, apartment blocks et al), while simultaneously driving up property prices (people are prepared to pay more for a flat when they can make extra money by renting it out) and disrupting communities (noisy guests doesn’t make for great neighbourly relations).

I can appreciate that there are side effects to Airbnb but, as an Airbnb devotee, I’d like to offer up a defence of the rental platform.

Four years ago I went against the concerns of friends and family who invariably implored “I don’t think it’s a good idea to rent out your apartment to total strangers” and signed up to become an Airbnb host, letting my modest one bedroom flat in Harrow, west London to guests for stays ranging from a few days to four months.  Its allowed me to pay my mortgage at a time when work is thin on the ground, affording me financial stability.

I am a responsible host  – if I do say so myself – and abide to Airbnb’s rules. Case in point? I don’t rent my flat for more than a maximum of 90 days per year, in accordance with the latest Airbnb legislation. The tourists who book my apartment may not be splashing the cash on hotels but, make no mistake, they are spending money they save on overpriced hotel rooms in local shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. My guests all invariably love walking to nearby Harrow on the Hill for a pint in The Castle – a classic English pub – or afternoon tea at The Dolls House and feeling, if only for a few days, like a London native.

As a loud, proud, passionate Londoner, I love that I am able to give my guests an insight into how real Londoners live and show them a side of the city that they most likely never would have seen, had they been stuck staying in chain property in Piccadilly Circus. For, by hosting guests in Harrow, I am able to introduce tourists to a true local neighbourhood. But don’t just take my word for it: take the time to check out the reviews on my Airbnb listing, the majority of which express gratitude for the insider tips on the cheapest way to travel around London by tube (FYI avoid travelling before 9.30am and between 4-7pm Monday-Friday inclusive) and the low-down on the latest hot-spots in which to eat, drink and dance.

Airbnb accommodation in Buenos Aires

In addition to hosting, I also turn to Airbnb when I travel.  Partly because it’s affordable (growing up, travelling abroad with any kind of regularity was the preserve of the rich, but Airbnb has afforded that opportunity to regular folk too). And partly I use the platform because I adore meeting new people and, through Airbnb, have been able to stay with hosts in Colombia, Argentina, Hawaii, Hungary, China and Chile to name but a few countries, most of whom have enjoyed sharing their homes and hometown with me. From Lily, my host in Bogota, who insisted on taking me out salsa dancing during my stay to Mati and Cande in Buenos Aires who regularly invited me to asados (Argentine barbecues) on the rooftop of their apartment and whom I now count as family. It’s fair to say that my most memorable experiences abroad have been made by the kindness of my Airbnb hosts.

Salsa dancing with Lily (far right) – my Airbnb host in Bogota

Or in the words of martial artist, actor and film director, Jackie Chan: “We live now in a global village and we are in one single family. It’s our responsibility to bring friendship and love from all different places around the world and to live together in peace.

I now feel part of a community of like minded people who also enjoy interacting with people from around the world, which is why I find the recent Airbnb bashing hard to swallow. Besides why all the backlash against Airbnb? Alternatives such as Onefinestay – which features upmarket homes – Windmu (a Berlin based company that lists more than 300,00 holiday apartments worldwide), Housetrip, and (an  Airbnb style platform for gay travellers) rarely generate anywhere near as much hate as Airbnb.

Ultimately I truly believe it’s a good thing that there are now more accommodation options than ever before and, am of the opinion, that there’s room for them all…

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