More than a billion travelers have used Airbnb to find unique travel experiences since its founding in 2008. With over half a million guests per year visiting more than 220 countries at all different price points, Airbnb has effectively become the only real option for travel rentals.
Unfortunately, in the absence of legitimate global competition for hotel alternatives, Airbnb has become more problematic as it continues to grow.
While Airbnb has taken some steps to address common pain points, such as giving guests the option to see all fees upfront while searching, other more systemic hurdles will be nearly impossible to surmount. These are features – not bugs – of the Airbnb system.
Here are the top five reasons you might want to avoid Airbnb on your next trip:
Missing or Mismatched Amenities
Vacation time is a more precious commodity than dollars, euros, or pesos for most travelers. With the majority of Americans taking less than two weeks of vacation per year, it’s safe to say that every traveler wants to squeeze every last drop out of their travel days.
Unfortunately, the inconsistency of amenities across Airbnb properties means less time to enjoy your destination.
Sometimes absolute basics like toilet paper or soap may be missing from your accommodation, turning a chunk of your precious holiday relaxation time into a stressful weekend-rush-hour supermarket run, possibly in a foreign language or far from your accommodation.
More importantly, you never really know what you’re getting until you read pages of descriptions and house manuals, which are all inconveniently located in different sections of the web listing (and sometimes nonsensically auto-translated, just for giggles).
There’s simply too much variety to avoid mismatched expectations or miscommunications.
Hosts Can’t Compete With A Front Desk
There are many genuinely outstanding hosts on Airbnb who deserve serious commendation for their hospitality and love of their hometown. However, like amenities, Airbnb hosts’ hospitality and responsiveness are pretty luck-of-the-draw.
Even when staying with a superhost, there’s often (understandably) a significant delay in getting problems resolved or getting critical information. From days-long power outages in sweltering heat to flooded bathrooms, there are just some things that make a traveler long for a hotel’s front desk.
These types of issues can quickly deteriorate from inconveniences into genuine health and safety issues. When hosts are not available or able to resolve the problems, Airbnb support should be able to fill in the gaps, right?
Poor Customer Support Means No Peace Of Mind
A recent report analyzing over 125,000 Airbnb complaints on Twitter found that 72% of travelers’ issues with Airbnb were related to poor customer service.
Top issues included:
- Limited support in emergencies
- Unreachable or very rude, hang-ups
- Denies refunds or full refunds unfairly
- Promises but never delivers
- Provides wrong answer
Some guests accuse Airbnb Support of prioritizing net profits and maintaining its image rather than helping or protecting guests.
In especially terrifying cases, Airbnb’s shadowy ‘safety team’ in particular seems to focus less on preventative changes to keep travelers safe and more on paying millions in hush money when the lack of host accountability and standardized safety practices results in break-ins and violent assaults, which predominantly affect female guests.
A Not-So-Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
What used to be an off path taste of local life seems to have morphed into more of a corporate machine. Foreign house flippers and sterile management companies have replaced the down home hospitality and quirky immersive experiences of early Airbnb.
One study in Hawaii revealed some of the ways short-term vacation rentals like Airbnb erode the character and culture of a neighborhood. “This thing is changing the sense of place of the neighborhood. It’s changing the feel of it, with almost a revolving door of strangers,” one resident said.
Studies from Boston also show that short-term rentals disrupting the organic organization of a neighborhood can also have detrimental effects on social ties and raise crime rates.
A concentration of Airbnbs within a neighborhood can bring issues such as:
- Cultural dilution
- Noise pollution
- Congested parking
- Property damage
- Rising rents
- Displaced residents
Because short-term rentals like Airbnb can make 2-8 times more money than a long term lease, many long-term residents are being kicked out of multigenerational family homes all over the world to make room for tourists’ next vacation pads.
This displacement can be seen most severely when wealthier Western tourists flock to cheaper countries with lower local wages for their cheap cost of living; for example, Mexico City.
The average wages in the Mexican capital are $3,800 per year. After last year’s agreement, where the Mexico City government welcomed Airbnb with open arms, a typical 2-bedroom apartment goes for more in monthly rent ($1,500 – 4,000) than many local annual salaries.
A tourist calls their Airbnb price an amazing deal. A digital nomad calls it geoarbitrage. Locals and experts call it global gentrification.
Is Your Holiday Rental Illegal?
Unbeknownst to most travelers, many of the Airbnb listings shown in their search results are in fact illegal.
Some are operating in cities or countries where Airbnb is illegal or heavily restricted. Others haven’t followed proper protocols for their area, such as being a registered real estate or tourism business or renting for the legal minimum or maximum periods of time.
Some hosts even put guests in the uncomfortable position of lying for them in order to skirt these regulations.
Airbnb is banned or severely restricted in these top destinations:
- New York City, NY
- San Francisco, CA
- Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Paris, France
- Barcelona, Spain
Airbnb began as a brilliant way to travel more like a local. Now, it’s become a necessary evil that travelers just can’t seem to shake.
No need to be discouraged by the lack of well-known alternatives to Airbnb. While the pickings are a bit slim, here are a few trip-worthy ideas for those willing to venture off path:
- Alberghi Diffusi – In Italy and around the world, you can stay in villages that have transformed into “scattered hotels” focused on reviving local historical and cultural gems.
- Ryokan and Minshuku – These traditional guest houses in Japan are usually family-run and passed down through generations. Travelers can fully immerse themselves in Japanese culture, from tatami rooms to hot spring baths.
- Fairbnb – This European co-op gives 50% of the tourists’ payment to funding local community projects while allowing hosts to list their homes for free.
- Home Exchange – Just like the name implies, you can swap homes with someone from another country. Talk about fair trade!
- Locally Owned B&Bs, Guesthouses, and Boutique Hotels – Check out 10 great options from The Guardian here, or search on your own using filters on Booking, Google, or elsewhere.
Traveler Alert: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance For Your Next Trip!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com