When communities become commercialized, no one but those with the purse strings win. Airbnb was originally a platform to offer “unique stays and experiences” as coined on their website, and it once was. It was about connecting people from all over the world as well as finding somewhere to stay during your travels.
It was promoted as the home away from home feel in that hosts would usually offer a room or suite in their own house for travellers. Hosts were there to give tips or even show you around the city.
It also used to be a likeable platform in that it was a more affordable and socially conscious alternative to hotel giants taking over city space and charging hiked-up prices for accommodation during tourist season.
But that just isn’t the case anymore. In fact, Airbnb is becoming more problematic than hotel chains. Airbnb does not follow the home away from home idea anymore. It is a corporatized, monetized, business.
According to a study by the Canadian Journal of Urban Research, almost 50 per cent of all Airbnb revenue in 2017 was generated by commercial operators with multiple short term properties. This was in high-value, high-populous cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.
To make matters worse, short term rentals are no longer rooms or even suites as “17,000 to 43,000 entire homes were rented frequently enough last year that they are unlikely to house a permanent resident,” according to the study. Forget the hotel chains taking up your city, now it’s an investment group from a different country that owns your neighbourhood, pushing your home commute from one hour to two.
Long gone are the mom and pop places, welcoming travellers and maybe making some extra cash for their mortgage. It’s now about a CEO making their million dollar bonus. And give me a break with the “you’re renting an experience” public relations junk. You’re renting a bed, a toilet, and a shower, just like at a hotel.
Secondly, hosts are not required to provide any services beyond the key. Sometimes not even the key but the code to the key box. Where is the traveller’s “unique experience” now?
If you have a problem with an Airbnb’s cleanliness, false or misleading details about the space, and a serious safety risk, get in line for a customer service email. For hotels, you have an entire staff there to accommodate your needs or you can cancel your booking on the spot. Not to mention hotels have verified listings you can trust instead of falling for an Airbnb scam, which has happened to some travellers.
Then there’s the matter of price, because Airbnb no longer has the more affordable price point. In fact, Airbnb’s listings are basically on par for the same room size in a hotel, if not more thanks to the platform’s service and cleaning fee, which can cost up to 15 per cent.
The site’s cleaning charges have no regulation or specific set maximum for hosts either. Especially considering most Airbnb listings often have a chore list for guests to follow, such as doing dishes, sweeping, and doing the laundry. Why am I paying that fee again?
In addition to turning me into a 1950s housewife, listings also come with curfews, guest restrictions, and no amenities like a stove, which was part of the saving money appeal of a home rental. You start to wonder if you paid to be on vacation or rent your grandmother’s basement. There needs to be more affordable accommodations again when travelling, not owned by big corporations.
Next time when you plan your vacation, plan your stay at a local bed and breakfast or just book a hotel.