Airbnb has over 5 million places to stay in 81,000 cities around the world. Forbes values them at $38 billion now. Their future looks bright and they are sure to continue to disrupt the lodging market for some time to come.
Are you unsure as to what lodging option is right for your next overnight stay? Confused as to the relative benefits of a traditional hotel and Airbnb? Read on to learn about the Airbnb vs hotel pros and cons.
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is a marketplace for people to offer their properties or rooms for rent. Airbnb takes a commission from both the host and the guest for providing this service. Hosts put details of their properties on the Airbnb website and guest can view them and book through the site.
There are photos of the properties and rooms together with information posted by the host. Guests review the property and the hosts after they leave. Hosts review the guests too.
Hosts range from people with a spare room who see it as a way of raising a little more income to more commercial operations. The small-scale hosts are often users of Airbnb, too. The hosts who have a guest in their own home can provide a personal touch to your stay.
Some more commercial hosts exist too. They may have multiple properties to let. These hosts may be less personal in their dealings with guests.
Given that Airbnb has been so commercially successful, they are bound to have had some press scrutiny. The press horror stories don’t seem to have reduced their attractiveness to travelers. As with any traveling, some sensible precautions can make Airbnb a viable option for many people.
What can you expect from Airbnb or hotel lodging? What are the key differences?
Safety is likely to be your first concern. When traveling away from your familiar home surroundings you can feel unsettled or even unsafe. How safe is Airbnb vs hotels?
Hotels tend to be regulated by local health and safety regulations. They may also be inspected by local health authorities. You would expect standards to be high although there are exceptions.
Not every travel destination is equally scrupulous about safety regulation. There are hotels with low standards. Check reviews and guides for specific information.
Airbnb lodgings in hosts own homes are not visited by any inspectors. If a host is letting a whole home then they may not be subject to any local regulation. More commercial hosts may be letting lodgings both independently and through Airbnb and so may be subject to inspections.
A corporate brand gives some reassurance. Any complaints you have might be listened too by a branded hotel because they are concerned about reputational risk. Airbnb does claim that refunds are payable if basic safety standards are not adhered to.
If safety is a concern, then read reviews and guides for more information. Previous guests may have experienced problems or have positive comments. If you are worried, don’t use lodgings where there have been no positive reviews.
Once you have made a booking, how secure is your money? What if you turn up and there is no accommodation? Can you get your money back?
If you book your hotel stay through a corporate website or travel agent there are several ways in which your money might be secure. There may be insurance coverage through your credit card if you paid that way. There may be travel and hotel insurance through a travel agent.
If there has been a mistake or a problem with your room hotels tend to work hard to resolve it. They would rather not have an unhappy guest in the hotel lobby.
With Airbnb, you pay through their website using a secure system. Your host does not get the money until 24 hours after your lodging is due to start. This means if you turn up and there is no host or room you can get back to Airbnb to stop any payment.
The existence of previous guest reviews gives some confidence that the host is real. Reading reviews can indicate a history of happy guests. Avoid hosts with poor reviews and try to read between the lines of vague reviews.
Hotel rating schemes exist to give you a guide to the quality of the hotel and service provided. They are not always clear about what they stand for. There are amazing hotels and down at heal hotels too.
Hotel review sites such as TripAdvisor can provide help when researching lodging options. There have been allegations of fraudulent reviews. Be cautious about the ratings and read the comments closely.
Hotel brands tend to standardize their offer across the whole of their hotel estate. If you are happy with one of the chain’s hotels, you are likely to find the others to be of a similar standard.
Airbnb has a huge range of lodgings. They offer unique and spectacular apartments as well as very basic shared accommodation. They key is to read the host’s description together with reviews.
Knowing what to expect is the key to a happy guest experience. If you know you will be sharing a bathroom and that there is no food offered then you will not be disappointed when that is what you find on arrival.
What are you looking for from your lodgings? A standard hotel will tend not to offer a special or unusual travel experience. There are however special and unusual hotels who do just that.
Perhaps you look for your hotel to provide you with a refuge, a home from home. The location may be exotic but the hotel less adventurous. Hotels can provide this well.
Airbnb can give you a more authentic local experience. Some hosts are great at introducing you to their local area with advice and more. Airbnb reviews are littered with stories of hosts taking guests with them out for the evening, on local walks and entertaining them.
Price may be your motivation to check out Airbnb. Don’t assume that it is always cheap. Airbnb may offer more options for the traveler and these can include higher priced options.
There are low-price offers in hotels from time to time. Last minute bookings may be priced simply to fill a room and get a little revenue rather than have a room sitting empty. Shop around.
Airbnb lodgings can include unusual and expensive options. If you have exclusive use of a home and it comes with a pool, amazing views and decor then you should expect to pay for it. At the other end of the spectrum, if you are traveling on a budget, a simple room in a shared home can be amazing value.
Make your Airbnb vs hotel choice
Choosing lodgings of whatever kind is about research. You can reduce your risk and perhaps the quality of the experience by booking a standard hotel room in a global hotel chain. With a little effort, you can resolve your own Airbnb vs hotel debate and have lodgings that are right for you.
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