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What is AirBnB and why is so polemic?

Some time ago, planning a trip consisted on a series of more or less common and obvious steps. First, you selected a couple of destinations, being within the range of your preferences, possibilities and budget. Next, you looked for the best options of transportation, hosting and local activities. Then you did numbers, to confirm that your choice will be actually affordable. And finally, you picked a destination and made your reservations in considerable advance; commonly through a travel agency.

Things have not radically changed, since travellers still search and compare options. But now the internet and several travel websites are their particular travel agents. And the range of hosting options has also broadened. For example, if you are planning a trip to Mexico City, you can go online and search for terms such as “hoteles Mexico DF”. But you can also sign up in platforms like AirBnB and find a room for rent.

If you are not aware of it yet, you should know that AirBnB is kind of the new trend among travellers, especially in the cities where the service is recently being offered. Tenants who offer a room for rent through AirBnB are neither providing the services of a hotel, nor the ones of a long term living place. So, what’s the whole business about?

AirBnB is an online platform where you can find a place to stay with locals in hundreds of cities around the Globe. You can find rooms, lofts, studios and even small apartments, for a short term rent, commonly ranking from a couple of days to a month. You don’t pay directly to the tenant but to AirBnB and you are charged a percentage of the fare in advance, as a guarantee for both, you and the tenant.


Although the service has been widely used by tourists who want to experiment the place they are visiting in a different way, it can also be an option for students, business travellers or workers. The question is can such a service affect the income and profits of the hospitality industry?

Hotel Associations in New York, Barcelona and Berlin have argued that AirBnB may represent an unfair competition, because thanks to the platform, they say, every owner can turn his or her house into a hotel, without paying the correspondent taxes. The Hotel Association of New York has made a specific demand to the authorities; they ask them to apply a law against short-term rents, stating that owners can’t rent their apartments for less than 30 days. That would ban almost every transaction in AirBnB, since users rarely intend to rent for periods longer than a month.

AirBnB New York has answered that people advertising their rents through their platform are not pretending to turn their homes into hotels, since they don’t even offer their place every moth. Commonly, landlords only advertise when they have a space to share or when they are going on vacations. Furthermore, since rooms can be offered in any location of the city and not only within the touristic areas, services like AirBnB take visitors to less frequented spots, generating incomes for local businesses (restaurants, bars, stores).

While the polemic goes on in places like New York, others, like Mexico City, are giving a warmer and less resentful welcome to the service. As a traveller, what do you prefer? Would you rather spend your vacations in a comfortable hotel room, having all the services at your door, or to stay with locals and share a bit of their daily life?

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