Image: Jonas Denil via Unsplash

Why Airbnbs are right up my alley

Lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic is thankfully something that is now a distant memory. With domestic and international travel fully opened up – despite widespread flight cancellations during the June half-term – individuals can jet off overseas or explore the delights of the UK. A big part of preparing for such travel is working out where to stay. From a basic hostel to a grand hotel, accommodation can play a vital part in the satisfaction of a trip away.

Though there appear to be numerous travel websites for your choosing, Airbnb remains an innovative platform. A key component of the gig economy, it is one of the few modern apps (unlike Uber and Deliveroo) that I have felt confident operating. Used across the world, it allows members of the public to hire out a room, flat or whole house to willing visitors, providing them with the ability to set the price and parameters of the stay.

Initially, this might sound quite daunting, especially if you’re used to the security of hotel chains like Premier Inn. Who knows who you might stay with, especially if the host is living in your accommodation too? Indeed, when I first used Airbnb on a December 2019 trip to Edinburgh, that was what I worried about.

I particularly like the different filters that seek to ensure you receive the right property

However, there is little reason for concern. Think about it. It is in the interest of all parties involved for you to have a relaxing, stress-free stay. Perhaps this is why Airbnb has been around for over a decade since its founding in 2008, balancing its huge business (2021 saw revenues of nearly $5 billion) with small individual owners of properties. On a purely practical level, everything about the platform is designed to be transparent. After inputting your planned holiday dates and number of people, an array of properties appear. You can then alter your price range, location, and a variety of other factors. Hosts will often display a range of photos to provide as true a reflection as they can of the property.

I particularly like the different filters that seek to ensure you receive the right property. There’s an option to only rent from ‘superhosts’, who are individuals who have let long-term through Airbnb and enjoy a good reputation. Similarly, when delving into the property, it is made clear what accessories and appliances it does and does not have. Transparency in all cases is the best policy.

The individualised nature of each home also means the owners often have different refund policies. Some are rather flexible and allow cancellation just before the stay commences. Others only allow a 50% refund for 48 hours after booking. Again, the flexibility will clearly have an implication on the Airbnb stay you choose, but the knowledge is nothing if not helpful.

Despite my beaming praise of Airbnb […], the very idea of renting out properties to prospective visitors has been far from plain sailing

Previous Airbnb guests at your prospective property can also come into good use here as they are able to deliver their own reviews and leave star ratings, which can provide a useful tool in gauging how satisfactory the stay was compared to its online advertisement. Indeed, after you’ve stayed, it’s possible to leave a private message specifically to your host for any areas of praise or criticism you don’t wish to make public.

However, despite my beaming praise of Airbnb thanks to a variety of smooth stays across the UK, the very idea of renting out properties to prospective visitors has been far from plain sailing. According to SomersetLive, this has shrunk the housing market, with the town of Bruton advertising 35 Airbnb properties despite housing demand. This can make it harder for local people to afford or have access to long-term rental properties, not least when such an absence of housing exists. Indeed, the law does not require landlords in the UK to seek council approval for using properties as short-term lets.

Where previously opening up a hotel would take immense time and effort, now there exists the chance to make your hotel within your home

The response to this needs to be wider structural government action which recognises the importance of building more housing across the country. This is not inherently the fault of landlords, who are recognising the flexibility and freedom offered by Airbnb. Where previously opening up a hotel would take immense time and effort, now there exists the chance to make your hotel within your home. While every trip away and accommodation brings different risks, the degree of transparency and options, alongside stellar reviews, should ensure your choice of accommodation with Airbnb is not one to regret.

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