Airbnb revolutionized the way a lot of people travel for many years. But now, the features that made Airbnb once an attractive alternative to traditional hotels, aren’t working as well for a lot of people. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
The Pros of Booking AirBnB:
Pro: Airbnb Delivers Variety
Depending on the occasion, you might be looking for a place to stay that’s a little bit unique. Traditional hotels offer uniformity and a standard of service, while an Airbnb gives you flavor and flexibility. Want to sleep in a treehouse in the jungle on your honeymoon? There’s an Airbnb for that. Looking for a large house with a gourmet kitchen and a backyard for your intergenerational family vacation? There’s tons of Airbnb properties set up for big group gatherings.
Pro: Airbnb lets you live like a local
When you visit a city and stay in a hotel, there’s no escaping that you’re a tourist. Hotels are filled with other tourists and business travelers, not locals. When you’re a traveler who likes to really soak up local culture, you can often do that easier when staying in a local neighborhood. Many Airbnbs, since they are owned by private individuals, give you that sense of place.
Pro: It’s great for long-term stays
When you need to book a place to stay for more than a week or so, an Airbnb can be a more “homey” way to go, so you don’t feel as unsettled in a new city. It can also be a more economical option. A lot of times, Airbnb hosts offer discounts for longer stays. You have to reach out to the individual hosts to set this up, but most hosts prefer to host longer stays anyway.
This all sound pretty cool, right? Well, not so fast. There’s some downside to an airbnb booking these days. Let’s look at some of the cons.
The Cons of Booking AirBnB:
Con: Exorbitant fees
On a recent search for a stay in Austin, I was shocked to see that my adorable, 3-night stay at a $149/night casita downtown was going to cost me close to $1,000! Wait. That math doesn’t sound right. $149 x 3 nights is $447. If you add in 20% or so for miscellaneous fees, shouldn’t the booking be more like $550? Well, it’s complicated.
Last year, in fact, Airbnb pledged to conduct an internal review, after this tweet sparked a social media backlash:
we gotta stop airbnb pic.twitter.com/RUVq3Gwv9i
— alexa (@mariokartdwi) May 17, 2021
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that the fees have changed much, which begs the question: what happened with that internal review they promised? You can argue that supply chain issues, the cleaning costs, and supply and demand all simply impact the platform. But for travelers who initially found the value much better than a hotel, it’s hard to see the benefit over a hotel where you get a more responsive level of service in-house.
Con: Service is not consistent
The business model of Airbnb, means that the kind of service you get varies wildly from property to property. When your stay is uneventful, there are no service issues at all. Airbnb customers report problems sometimes when there are issues at the property.
Some hosts don’t tell customers when there is loud or unsightly construction in the neighborhood. Sometimes electrical or plumbing problems create issues for guests. If a host isn’t responsive when you have no hot water, that can be an unpleasant experience.
And guests sometimes report that Airbnb doesn’t have their back with host disputes. Unlike at a hotel where your problems get addressed and then remedied in real time, guests report that the dispute process can drag on for weeks and months and the service often sides with the hosts.
Con: What you see may not be what you get
Because Airbnb is a hosting service, you might see photos online that suggest one standard of accommodation and arrive to find something less attractive. Maybe the photos online are out of date, and wear and tear has set in. In any, event, you should always check the guest ratings for any given property, but there simply isn’t a guarantee of a certain standard that you can expect with traditional hotel properties.
So is it time to ditch Airbnb?
We don’t think it’s necessary to avoid Airbnb altogether, but the days in which you could get a vacation rental for a song are long past. It’s always a better idea to go into an Airbnb situation with eyes wide open. Know the total cost breakdown and expectations for service if you’re more on the high-maintenance side. Is your host in town during your stay or do they have a hosting service available 24/7 in case of emergency? What are their rental policies and deposits required? Don’t book an Airbnb if your idea of vacation is turn-down service and a concierge staff on demand. Managing expectations is key.
We think Airbnb can be a great option for multiple-family trips. When you need one rental for a larger group, with entertaining facilities and room to sleep for adults and kids – Airbnb can be both a great value and a practical option. You may miss the daily maid service, but you’ll appreciate having your own kitchen to cook up meals at all times of the day.
Overall, we’d probably recommend hotel stays for most travelers, unless you’re more of an independent traveler, who can forgo the service standards of a hotel to really visit a place more like a local.