For my brief stay in Beirut weekend before last, I used Airbnb. For the first time.
In case you’ve never used it before, some advice:
- DO NOT START BY MAKING A BOOKING ON AIRBNB.
- Because, as you make a booking, Airbnb will reserve money on your card. Instantly. As in: *Clic–receivesnotificationmessagefrombank–k*
- Except that making a booking on Airbnb does not mean that you have made a booking.
- What it means is: you have tried to book the apartment that you found and liked. And the host of said apartment still has complete autonomy to decline your booking.
- And when they decline your booking, you get this:
And to be clear, “declined bookings” can happen for any of the following reasons:
- The host has forgotten to tell Airbnb that the place isn’t available.
- The host has a friend coming to stay.
- The host might be going away but isn’t sure yet.
- The host forgot to reply to your booking request in time.
- The host didn’t like your profile picture.
- The host suspected you of being a weirdo.
- The host thought that you might try to steal something.
- *insert whatever reason you like*
After getting hit with reserves and declines twice (shame on me) – I realised that what you have to do is make contact with the host first, and let them issue you a booking invite.
Which I did do, eventually. And lucked out with an amazing host and an amazing apartment and basically, I was the envy of all the Lebanese people that came to visit en route to wherever we were going.
However, some observations:
- Airbnb – not that much cheaper than a hotel. SORT OF THE SAME PRICE, REALLY. The main difference: you might get slightly more room with Airbnb, and it feels like you’re living in the city.
- That said: “living in a city” comes with all sorts of consequences, like plumbing issues, strange smells, not-double-glazed windows, mediocre air-conditioners, and having to clean the dishes and make your own bed.
- Which is cool if that’s what you want from your holiday.
- But that’s not what everyone wants from their holiday.
- Because hotels come with turndown service and rooftop swimming pools and helpful receptionists in the lobby.
Which is part of the reason why I think that Airbnb is not going to be nearly as disruptive as investors think. I will still be using hotels when I travel – except where I’m wanting a more “authentic” experience. For example: New York. I think I definitely want to experience New York as a New Yorker. That would be cool.
But that’s not the only reason why I think that Airbnb is destined to become an adjunct to the main tourist parade. The other reason has to do with my visit to Greece.
While I was in Greece, I stayed in hotels. But when I wandered through the Psirri district in Athens in search of awesome Greek-hipster restaurants (and said restaurants were located – just for the record), what I saw were blocks of Airbnb apartments. They looked fresh and vaguely Scandinavian, with minimalist lobbies and much gratuitous glass. But basically, we’re talking about blocks of rooms, dedicated to tourists.
Also, from my brief foray onto Airbnb for Athens, some of those apartment blocks now come semi-serviced. With perhaps a 24 hour number that you can call for help with any problems in the room.
A block of rooms that are dedicated to tourist “rentals” that come furnished and semi-serviced?
I’m sorry – but those are hotels.
Which makes me think that Airbnb is headed in roughly the same direction as that of PrivateProperty and Property24. Those were meant to cut out the estate agent middle-man. But they really ended up being mostly just another advertising platform for estate agents.
And Airbnb? My bet: those Airbnb apartments are going to start looking a lot like hotel accommodation. After all – if you’re now paying similar prices, would you settle for less?
And on the plus side: hotels are a lot less likely to decline your booking because you didn’t sound, I dunno, cheerful enough in your introductory message.
But I could be wrong. And in the interim, here’s an infographic:
Rolling Alpha posts opinions on finance, economics, and the corporate life in general. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rollingalpha.