There is an interesting article on the Betabeat site this week looking at how AirBnB users could be upsetting their neighbours.
It’s a question worth asking. People using the phenomenally popular site to rent out their own self-contained house, that’s one thing. But giving a stream of people the keys to an apartment block with shared facilities? That could lead to problems and disputes, especially if it is a constant activity.
Someone I know was threatened with legal action/eviction by their landlord this week, because they were alleged to be “running a hostel”. She is now wondering if it was the neighbours who gave the owner a tip-off. (She is not, as it happens, using AirBnB, but she does rent a room on a more long-term basis via Craigslist.)
AirBnB has always been an innovative player in this emerging market, always adapting and often spinning off in whole new directions.
Originally, it focused on offering quick-fix accommodation. It helped you find a place to throw up an airbed, when all the hotels were full because of a conference or special event. Then it moved into offering alternatives to hotels (featuring some quite stunning properties that moved beyond far beyond backpacker territory). Recently it has decided it wants service people staying in places for extended periods and its new subletting division allows users to book their stays by the month. This mid-term market is a hugely growing, especially as many people are now able to work anywhere that has an internet connection. The existence of sites like this is great news for this new breed of traveller.
I see they have chosen to adopt the word ‘subletting’, which is bold. In the past AirBnB has said its users are typically owners of the properties, rather than renters, as subletting is usually prohibited by most rental contracts.
Yet owners or renters can both get on the wrong side of their neighbours. So, should you speak to your neighbours first? Would it bother you if your neighbours rented out their place to travellers?
What is certain is that 2011 was an eventful year for these networks.
AirBnB came back from a PR disaster (as one user had her home trashed) by offering a guarantee to users, which gave them a lot more credibility. They also secured a massive new amount of funding, with their valuation rising to a supposed $1 billion.
“AirBnB clone” Wimdu.com came on the scene too and quickly picked up US$90 million of funding.
Meanwhile, AirBnB’s growth doesn’t seem to be slowing. They recently launched a huge recruitment campaign worldwide. It’s interesting to learn that they recruit photographers, too. This may explain why it looks better than the usual sites that function on member-generated images.
It will be interesting to see what 2012 holds for this new type of travel.
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, WallyG