Airbnb is losing its appeal – SURFACE
When Airbnb debuted, the travel industry had seen nothing like it. Co-founded by RISD classmates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, then joined by technologist Nathan Blecharczyk, the service successfully booked its first customers at a conference in the summer of 2008, when travelers struggled to find short-term housing in San Francisco. Guests and hosts have praised its variety of options and hassle-free online booking.
From Airbnb’s starry origins, the tech unicorn has gradually turned into chaos. Early complaints about negative experiences escalated. Parasite-infested rooms. Hidden cameras. Bait and switch scams. Last minute cancellations. Intrusive hosts. Excessive fees. Task lists. Facing a torrent of backlash and public scrutiny with every misstep, Airbnb listings now come with a long list of rules that customers have to follow or risk bad grades – and even more costs. And these are just minor offences. Airbnb has hired a “security team” that keeps customers at bay when their rental experience is downright nightmarish in order to avoid further public relations disasters.
“The change has been so slow and gradual that there has never been a single moment when Airbnb has gotten so awful. But as one-stop family vacation rentals have given way to corporate property management juggernauts , Airbnb’s charm slowly eroded until all that remained were unpredictable lodging experiences at high prices,” writes Sam Kemmis for nerdwallet. “The downsides of staying at Airbnb properties so often outweigh the benefits that travelers — even stingy backpackers — might reconsider its outsized role in the world of travel.”
Many Airbnb issues arise because, unlike hotels, individual rentals lack full-time staff. Even the seediest motels will at least attempt to resolve issues and change rooms, but Airbnbs guests often have to sort things out on their own if their hosts aren’t responsive. (Don’t think of leaving bad reviewsneither.) But when you’re overwhelmed with chores, sticking to excessive rules, and being hit with hidden fees without the amenities of a hotel, do the benefits of an Airbnb rental always outweigh the disadvantages?
Twitter don’t seem to think so. “Airbnbust is right around the corner,” wrote a Dallas-based housing expert, who tweeted screenshots of a Facebook group called “Airbnb Superhosts” in which members complained about low bookings. The tweet went viral and drew a passionate response from users. “Holiday Inns are usually pretty nice and don’t give me chore lists like I’m in third grade,” one person joked. Another one“Maybe it’s because you evicted a family of four, converted their home to a shoddy duplex, stuffed it with TJ Maxx decor, and charged guests $200 for cleaning costs, all because you don’t feel like getting a job.”
They are right. Along with supply chain issues, slowing construction and exclusionary zoning laws, the short-term rental industry has been blamed for driving up housing prices. Opportunistic landlords are gobbling up long-term rentals that once housed locals, converting them into short-term Airbnbs where a two-night stay can cover one’s monthly rent. Cities like New York and Amsterdam have cracked down on short-term rentals, but the former recently said it had more Airbnb listings than apartments on the market. (This does not bode well in a historical housing shortage.) A 2016 report estimates Airbnb’s grip on the housing stock is costing New Yorkers an additional $616 million in annual rent, though many factors influence the housing market and make Airbnb’s true impact harder to measure.
A way to save Airbnb? Turn it into a platform exclusively for unusual and wonderful rentals you can’t find anywhere else.
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