My passion for traveling is beyond control. Planning to discover somewhere new, learning about it, finding all its secret hidden spots is just my thing. So when Airbnb was born, I actually embraced it with the same enthusiasm, as it would allow me to travel like a local, to “live” in my destination rather than just staying for some days.
We liked it so much that we became hosts ourselves, as we lived in a two bedroom flat and it was quite cool to have guests staying and socialising with us: I loved to eat dinner with them at night and listen to their stories in Edinburgh.
Unfortunately, as it became more and more popular, hosts started to professionalise the “travel like a local” business. Most of the time the host didn’t live in the home we had rented: they were actually leasing its rooms separately to different Airbnb guests. The flats and the houses were empty of books, paintings, plants, decent kitchenware… because it was not a home, it was a short term let.
People started to install key boxes next to the property door and sent to us the code to get the key, meaning that in some occasions we didn’t even get to see anyone during our stay. When I raised such things, they always tell that they are available by email, message and in the Airbnb app… which is great of course, but it is not the experience that I was looking for.
One of the best Airbnb stays I ever had was in Tampere (Finland) where Mirja was renting a bedroom in her own home. We cooked together, had a tea after dinner, talked about life and love and so many things that I knew I had found a friend for life. Yes, her house was not perfect, was not spotless and definitely was not downtown… but I didn’t care because I was getting something that I could not get anywhere else: a local sharing with me her way of living *special sigh*
Airbnb real estate agencies are real
After key boxes and padlocks, Airbnb managing companies were created, which to me, they feel even worse. An employee, who doesn’t really care about any philanthropic ideals, opens the main door to you.
Sure, they are friendly and nice, but you can see that they are like an Airbnb flying attendant, pointing here and there as they show you where the extra toilet paper is or the Wi-Fi password. They work for a company that works for your host and they only care about the revenue that the property is making. No books, no plants, no paintings and usually the same Ikea cookware in the kitchen.
With all that in mind, I made the conscious decision to go back to hotels. They are not selling the “traveling like a local” experience but the hospitality industry has been around for years and they know how to take care of you.
They will clean your room, refill your coffee, tea and biscuits for the next day, give you a stunning breakfast, allow you to store your luggage as early as you want and they will be there to speak to you every minute of the day or to tell you where the nearest pharmacy is.
Usually hotels have a restaurant and a bar, often open until very late at night and they will give you amenities and take care of every detail.
Some people may think that Airbnb has the one big advantage that makes them to be always a step ahead hotels and bed and breakfasts, which is the pricing. However, I have notice that since the industrialization of Airbnb as real estate investment, the prices have gone up incredibly.
This is hurting not only the pockets of the travelers and tourists, but also those who actually live in the city or town, as renting somewhere to live is becoming increasingly difficult. A sound example of this is my dearest Barcelona, a city that once was welcoming and friendly to visitors but recently has started to see signs in windows and balconies asking tourists to leave them alone.
My biggest worry is not to have a poor Airbnb experience or to end up paying a bit more but how the extensive leisure travel is damaging the cities and idiosyncratic principles of a given place. Will Edinburgh be the same when the entire Royal Mile is just populated by selfie addicts that come and go every couple of days?
Surely the Scottish soul that you can feel when walking past Victoria St is not just because the colorful houses and ancient pavements but also thanks to the patient locals that don’t want to give up that part of themselves that some people might call home.
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