In his TED talk earlier in 2016, Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia marvelled about how he, along with his friend Brian Chesky, had stumbled upon the idea of Airbnb.
Broke and desperate, they’d found a way of making some extra cash by inviting three people who’d come for a conference in San Francisco to crash on air beds in their living room.
Later, after seeing off their guests [and having a darn good time showing them around SF] they wondered: Had they just discovered a way of making friends while also making rent?
Airbnb is more than just a rental listing website – it’s a social network trying to bring people from different communities closer to each other while also boosting economic growth. However, as with any young business, it has plenty of loopholes and a lot of potential to be exploited.
However, for a company that works on people trusting complete strangers, Airbnb has actually done quite well.
In June 2015, Wall Street Journal reported that Airbnb was worth a whopping $24 billion, considerably higher than older hospitality moguls like Marriott.
So, we delved into the matter. What decides your Airbnb experience? Is there a way to make sure you get a fair deal, always?
We asked around a bit.
Shivya Nath, an avid traveller who left her corporate job in 2011 and has been on the road since, did not have the best of experiences on her first two Airbnbs. However, she did not give up on it.
Now, almost 4 years later, Airbnb is Shivya’s preferred accommodation.
Simple things like taking reviews seriously, according to Shivya, is very important. Shivya has stayed in Airbnbs in countries like Australia, Sri Lanka, and Philippines where she has had some incredible experiences. Read about them in this blogpost.
On the other hand, Roshan Bhat, a traveller based in Dubai, wasn’t so lucky. While looking for a rental in Amsterdam a couple of years ago, Roshan discovered a whole bunch of fake rentals. He had followed all of Airbnb’s advice – good reviews, recommended hosts – and yet he found himself in the middle of a classic Airbnb scam.
This is what happened:
The listing seemed decent – it had 45 reviews. On top of that, the host was a ‘superhost’ [Airbnb’s way of showing recommendation]. However, when it was time to book the rental, the host demanded payment via bank transfer. He even had an official-looking receipt emailed to Roshan [from a seemingly legit address, nonetheless]. Thankfully, Roshan had done his homework and knew that Airbnb did not authorize payment via remote bank transfers. Busted.
In Amsterdam alone, Roshan found around 5 to 6 similar fake rentals.
When I voiced my concerns to Airbnb, they told me to be careful while selecting. But how can I be careful when it’s a superhost? That’s why I quit Airbnb.
– Roshan Bhat
Airbnb may only work for a certain type of traveller. You’ve got to have the right amount of risk-taking attitude and trust. In a nutshell:
Airbnb will work for you if:
1. You’re a frugal traveller: There are great listings on Airbnb for half the price of a hotel room. College trip with a tight budget? Check out Airbnb.
2. You’re impulsive: Do check-in check-out timings drive you insane? If you’re more likely to plan your trip one week in advance as opposed to months, Airbnb might actually work in your favour!
3. You’re an experiential traveller: Want to experience more than just what’s there in the travel guides? Your Airbnb host might be able to point you to some great hidden gems!
4. You’re a people person: Who knows, you might find a friend in your host! As a local, your host can tell you interesting stories about a place that you wouldn’t find on the internet. Here’s your chance to understand their lives!
Airbnb may not work for you if:
1. Comfort is your top-most priority while on a vacation: Remember, your Airbnb rental isn’t a hotel, it’s someone’s home. There’s bound to be some personal stuff lying around. A kind host might offer you breakfast on some occasion but you cannot expect them to clean your room and leave pretty linen origami every time. If that bothers you, you’re probably better off in a hotel.
2. There’s always a possibility that your Airbnb might be disappointing. If that can bum you out for your entire holiday, we’d recommend sticking to a hotel.
You might like: Live life like a king: 4 lavish heritage hotels in Rajasthan.
We agree, Airbnb is a gamble. That’s because it’s centered around something that we’ve always been told not to do: trust strangers. However, there have been incredible stories about hosts taking on unusual roles of tour guides, friends and even life-savers!
So the question here really is: Would you give Airbnb a second chance, even if your first experience was terrible?
That’s what we want to know from you! Share your Airbnb experiences with us in the comments below.