There’s a world-wide revolution afoot, winning favor bedroom by bedroom. It’s called Airbnb, an online accommodations booking agency founded in San Francisco in 2008. By summer of 2012, over two million guest nights had been booked via the site, part of a phenomenon known as the “sharing economy.”
Airbnb now connects guests with hosts in private homes in 192 countries. This includes over 300,000 furnished properties—from apartments in the heart of Paris and other world capitals to country homes and rented rooms worldwide. Those seeking a wilder experience can rent a castle, windmill, tree house, gypsy wagon, villa, geodesic dome, sailboat or caravan.
The vast majority of options are rented rooms, apartments and houses with prices for every budget. This is a peer-to-peer business but financial transactions are through a secure system that serves and protects both guests and hosts. Both are encouraged to post reviews of their experience, keeping everyone on their best behavior and instilling trust and confidence.
If the length of your trip is limited by funds rather than time constraints, Airbnb is a way to extend your stay without spending more money. How’s that? Many Airbnb listings include a kitchen so you can save on restaurants, a major expense for travellers. Shopping for food in a local market is a cultural experience and using someone else’s cooking gadgets can develop new culinary chops. Airbnb hosts often prove to be rich sources of information for finding thrifty deals and pointing guests to seasonal fairs and markets where the locals buy their food.
A listing generally provides lots of photos and details. There’s a map pinpointing where the listing is located, a calendar showing availability, and a calculator that figures the total charge, including Airbnb’s modest processing fee. Before booking, you can write several prospective hosts with questions and expect a prompt response. Once you’ve booked, your host might also provide pointers and suggestions for trip planning in the area.
Airbnb is bringing a whole new interpretation to the world of hospitality with round-the-clock customer service available anywhere in the world via phone, email and live chat in 16 languages. Additional protections built in to the Airbnb service include content moderation, anti-fraud systems and a trust and safety team.
Signing up is free. You simply create a profile about yourself and include a photo. As a peer-to-peer operation, Airbnb encourages you to share favorite destinations, interests and travel styles to create a personalized portrait of yourself.
Then it’s time to start researching options. Enter a destination, dates, and number of travelers on the search page and up pops a list of options. Fine tune with accommodation type (entire home, apartment, private room), price range and neighborhood. You can send a message to as many potential hosts as you wish; your privacy is protected until after you make a reservation. Once you reach agreement with a host, your reservation payment is made. Airbnb holds your payment in escrow until you arrive, then pays the host.
Every day, more travelers are discovering this unique way to travel. Who wouldn’t love a service that includes a list of “Golden Rules” for both travelers and hosts such as “Be respectful of your surroundings, and the neighbors next door” and “Welcome your guests with a big smile!”
If connecting with locals is an important ingredient in your travel elixir, take a tour of Airbnb to see what possibilities await you at your next destination.
Written by Guest Contributor Margaret Herrington for EuropeUpClose.com