Airbnb. Love it or hate it, it seems it is here to stay and in the interests of research on behalf of the trade, I thought it might be time to give it a try and become a part of the sharing economy.
I was nervous. The main problems I have had with Airbnb from the get go is the apparent lack of regulation. It felt like a risk. There was the potential for last minute cancellation, poor security, inconsistent product and misrepresentation of the product online.
Like you perhaps, I have heard plenty of Airbnb horror stories of trashed apartments and of con artists taking advantage of the system and ripping off guests.
After booking I was filled with remorse and the fear that on arrival in Birmingham my accommodation would not be what was advertised. What if they cancelled before I even arrived or the place was a dump occupied by undesirable wildlife?
The reality was in fact very different and I was delighted – and relieved - to find my fears were proven wrong. In fact I found the entire process to be smooth and remarkably flexible. Airbnb’s site enables you to maintain contact with your hosts from your pre-booking browsing right through to the end of your stay. Mine were friendly and accommodating, arranging for my late arrival and promptly answering any questions quickly throughout my stay. They even recommended local sights, restaurants, bars and local information to enhance my stay.
I usually like hotels but where the Airbnb accommodation won out over a hotel was the feeling it gave me of a home away from home. It was relaxed, the apartment let me do things at my own pace, no worries about breakfast times or restaurant opening hours, I was free to cook or eat out when I wanted, I could sleep in all morning with no knock on the door from housekeeping, and I relished the peace and privacy of having my own apartment in the city centre.
Working within the trade, I guess I didn’t really want to like Airbnb, and the potential threat it presents to our industry and although the trade will not be booking Airbnb apartments for their customers any time soon, I do recommend familiarising yourself with what it offers. It seems to me now that it is a great way to get close to a local community and to see a destination from the perspective of the locals.
It speaks to the experiential trend perfectly and is surely a resource agents need to understand, if only to know what they are up against. I expect that not every experience will be like mine and it is next to impossible to achieve a level of consistency across every accommodation option that many major hotel brands can offer, but perhaps it’s time for a trade friendly version, something that taps into the current craving to share and gives the industry better access to such unique stays.
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