a room with two beds and a tv
An Airbnb in Tokyo.

Where did all the people go?

Times, they are a’changing. Simple travel traditions which lived for decades, like finding a cute bed and breakfast have been simplified into apps and with hotels kicking guests out at 10am, without a decent breakfast many travelers seek alternative accommodation. This frustration and desire for something different created Airbnb and its impact cannot be underestimated. Simply considering the number of copy cat follow ups is proof that Airbnb has changed travel forever, which leaves a simple question: is it actually good for the world? It depends who you ask…

airbnb parisSimplicity

Why is Airbnb on a first name basis like Madonna or Google? Simplicity. Home sharing options have existed since the early days of mankind, but Airbnb took a great concept global. There’s no need to “Google” great apartment rentals in Madrid. You simply open the Airbnb app, make a couple taps and you’ve got the lay of the land. Naturally there are more curated options, but for most of the world, it does the trick.

The Short Case For Good

Airbnb has made travel more affordable and more customizable. Simple joys such as renting a two bedroom apartment rather than paying for a second room can’t be underestimated and these price breaks have allowed more people to see more of the world on their terms. For those seeking authenticity in a world of instant Instagram tourism sensations, Airbnb’s allow people to explore indigenous neighborhoods and imagine life as an actual local, rather than a guest in a doorman fronted hotel. This alternative accommodation option has forced hotels to become more competitive with benefits and be conscious of pricing schemes.

The Short Case For Bad

Airbnb has uprooted local neighborhoods. In tourism centric cities such as Barcelona, it’s far more beneficial for landlords to turn apartments into Airbnbs, where they can charge hundreds per night, rather than scope out a tenant, from whom they’ll make roughly half or less. This has caused chaos in major cities and in many ways, the impact is irreversible. When locals move out, local businesses such as coffee shops, dry cleaners and boutiques must close. In addition, the platform creates natural opportunity for wealthy property management groups to prosper more than “one off” hosts sharing their home, or single investment property. In some cases, conglomerates are making $75,000 and up in a single city each day, just from Airbnb. It’s like hotel companies, but unregulated.

airbnb in bali

The Pricing Impact

Airbnb takes off where hostels started. Not everyone needs or wants a private room and many solo travelers appreciate the camaraderie of someone to talk to, or learn about their destination from. Airbnb creates more flexible accommodation pricing for everyone from solo travelers to large groups, and this fair approach has made an extremely positive impact on the travel market et all. Hotels must now be mindful of their pricing and amenities when great Airbnb options exist nearby.

Unregulated Mess

In many cities, Airbnb is entirely unregulated – and in some ways that’s a good thing. Cities such as Hong Kong have gone borderline overboard in making sharing economy solutions impossible to legally enjoy. No reasonable enterprising individual wants to spend $50,000 or more and go through rigorous certification standards to simply list an extra bedroom which can help put their kids through college, but conversely, having no regulation is dangerous as well. Cities like Tokyo seem to be taking a progressive approach, creating a reasonable and affordable path for locals to secure a license to list their property, with logical restrictions on how many nights a property may be rented. In itself, this prevents purely speculative properties, and keeps the spirit of side income, rather than full on business.

Ancillary Industry Boom

An undisputed positive of Airbnb is the employment opportunities it’s created from ancillary services. From cleaning crews to linen suppliers, there’s a lot of side benefit offered to people who may otherwise be left out of work. With more than 10,000 Airbnb listings in a city like New York, almost all of which will require professional cleaning, that’s a tremendous opportunity for hardworking people. The same goes for hosts who help guests check in when the actual owner is busy at work.

airbnb barcelonaDestroyed Neighborhoods

Neighborhoods which thrived for decades have been obliterated by Airbnb. That’s a simple fact. Gone are the local markets, gyms, cafes and restaurants which make a great Airbnb feel special, and gone are the hardworking people who have been told their rent checks just aren’t enough any longer. When an entire apartment building becomes an Airbnb entrepreneurs palace, the safety and dependability naturally falters. And after all, isn’t that just a hotel at this point, and shouldn’t it be subject to hotel standards and regulations? Since most Airbnb guests are geared to explore touristic areas, rather than simply enjoy local cafes, businesses fold.

Cheap Marketing

In many cities, you’ll find Airbnb listings which are awfully similar to hotels you may have browsed on Expedia or TripAdvisor. Without any true guidelines, hotels are creating dubious listings to make travelers feel as if they’re buying into the Airbnb experience, when they’re really just getting a hotel. Listing on Airbnb creates natural eyeballs with far lower advertising and marketing costs than other platforms. The platform has become so saturated and mainstream that its initial intent is harder and harder to find.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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1 Comment

  1. There is room for AirBnB but it must be regulated reasonably. Too many of these are simply now Ikea Hotels owned by someone with multiple listings who is benefitting from the loophole in regulations. There are no consumer protections or safety check on units. I understand why AirBnB made it so easy to sign up early on, ease of access is crucial to developing companies, but now that they have grown to the behemoth they are it is time for them to be a bit more discerning as well.

    It is sad going to cities like Barcelona and Paris and seeing entire buildings rented out as AirBnB’s while locals struggle to afford rent.

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