Let me start off by saying this: I do not like Airbnb. I cringe every time a client calls or walks in the door and asks, “Do you book Airbnb?” My standard reply is ‘No.’ I then proceed to tell them why Airbnb is not a suitable alternative to a hotel or vacation package through our agency.
Airbnb began in 2008 when two designers who had space to share hosted three travelers looking for a place to stay. Now, millions of hosts and travelers choose to create a free Airbnb account so they can list their space and book unique accommodations anywhere in the world. And Airbnb experience hosts share their passions and interests with both travelers and locals.
Needless to say, Airbnb’s have been a thorn in the Travel Agent’s side.
On a recent trip to San Diego, California for my wife’s 50-year high school reunion, I decided to take the plunge and book an Airbnb. After all, if you want to know the real story about something, you should experience it to find out the truth; and it was less expensive and in a better area than most hotel or motel accommodations in the area.
After a search of the Airbnb website, I found what looked to be a suitable home for our week stay. It was a studio apartment connected to a home owned by a great couple, Bill and Marissa. Their home was in the suburb of La Mesa, which is in the valley about 16-miles east of San Diego.
The booking process was simple: Select the home you are interested in, place a deposit (usually about half the cost), and the final payment is automatically charged to your credit card about two weeks before you arrive. All the information about your hosts and the home are listed in your reservation. And the host is easily contacted through phone calls, email, or texting.
When we arrived at our studio, we entered the back yard through a side gate, got our key in a lock box (combination listed in the check-in instructions) and entered the studio through our private entrance.
The studio was fully equipped. Living room with couch, coffee table, and TV with full cable. A full kitchen with refrigerator, stove with oven, and all dishes and utensils. Our hosts even provided some snacks on the counter, and in the cabinets, for us to use. But the big draw to this studio was an in-ground pool in the backyard, which we only used once. We went to the beach instead. After all, this is California.
Bill and Marissa were pretty much silent hosts during our stay. We only met Bill after we knocked on their door one evening to introduce ourselves. Otherwise, they did not disturb us at all.
The location of this home could not have been better. In a quiet neighborhood that was minutes from shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. Only a 25-minute drive from the airport, and about that same amount of time to the local San Diego area beaches. If you get caught in the San Diego rush hour, that drive pretty much doubles.
As I learned during our stay, not all Airbnb’s are created equal. At my wife’s reunion, we talked to two of her fellow classmates who also rented Airbnb’s in the area.
One person rented a cottage and promptly discovered that the cottage had no air conditioning. A fact that was conveniently left out of the description on the Airbnb website. So, they left and got a hotel instead. And, of course, no refund on the cottage.
The other person rented a room that was part of a home. The owners were party animals and had parties at their home every night with people going in-and-out and a lot of noise. And they complained to their guest about leaving her windows open at night while she slept. So, a very negative experience for her stay as well.
Our studio was clean throughout. There was a smoke alarm in the room, and a fire extinguisher under the sink. The sheets were clean, extra towels and toiletries were provided in the bathroom. It was not, however, handicapped accessible.
So, what is my take on all of this? I’m still critical of Airbnb’s because you don’t know what you are getting until you get there. There have been numerous stories of people renting an Airbnb and finding out that all was not as advertised when they arrived. I guess we were lucky in picking the right place.
Did we have a good time… yes! Would I book an Airbnb again? Maybe. Will I still try and talk a client out of staying in an Airbnb home? Absolutely. Unfortunately, we are going to lose clients to Airbnb, mainly because of cost.
That’s where the salesperson in us takes over and points out the plusses of the services we offer, and the minuses of renting a room in a home that you are not sure what you are getting for your money.
I think the products and services we offer as Travel Consultants are much better. Now that I have had the Airbnb experience I can talk about both sides of the coin and can honestly say “Buyer beware.”
Fred joined the staff of Grandview Travel in 2008. He has 14 years of experience as a trusted Travel Advisor. Fred has traveled extensively around the world having visited more than 50 countries. He also lived in Europe for six years in London, England and Keflavik, Iceland.
Fred’s specialties include the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Iceland. He is also the resident Master Cruise Counselor, and Hawaii Destination Specialist, as well as advising on destination weddings, honeymoons, all-inclusive resorts, as well as large groups.. In the past two years Fred has broadened his travel experiences by traveling to Tahiti where he sailed on a 7-day voyage to the Society Islands aboard the luxury cruise ship Paul Gauguin. Fred also cruised the Danube and Rhine Rivers in Europe, sailing aboard the luxury river cruise lines Scenic and Uniworld. He also visited Costa Rica where he toured the country visiting exclusive resorts to recommend to prospective clients.