Travelers love Airbnb, and for good reason. You can snag awesome spaces that are *way* more affordable than standard hotels, find some off-the-beaten-path places (especially when looking for a cool spot while traveling solo) and totally feel and look less touristy. But is Airbnb’s popularity around the world causing actual problems? Coming on the heels of Berlin’s city-wide Airbnb ban, a recent analysis surfaced some insights that *might* show the innovative hospitality company is unintentionally ruining some of the world’s most treasured places. Yikes.
If you find yourself doubting just how much people love and use Airbnb nowadays, know that the international booking platform is currently available in a whopping 34,000 global cities in more than 190 countries around the world. Analysts predict that hosts will take more than 500 million bookings per night in less than five years. In the UK alone, more than three million people say they’ve used the site for travel accommodations, with a whopping 52,000 people signed up as hosts. The benefits for hosts are big, as data shows that an average Airbnb host in the UK will earn around £2,000 renting out a room for just 46 nights per year. Whoa.
With plenty of people earning extra income and travelers finding great places to stay, it can be hard to spot the problems — but Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of the Association of British Travel Agents, sees them clearly. According to The Guardian, he worries that the influx of visitors can actually serve as a legit threat to some of Europe’s most historic cities. “Overcrowding in key destinations is becoming a pressing issue,” he’s quoted as saying. “Without control, we know that tourism can kill tourism.”
Published data proves Airbnb’s power to change tourist itineraries and shift hotspots too. For example, 80 percent of bookings in Barcelona were in the Old Town when Airbnb first started operating in the city. Today, a jaw-dropping 70 percent of listings are outside of the area. Talk about a disruptive change!
The quick rise of the “mega operator,” or someone who rents out three or more Airbnb properties, poses even more problems. Julian Ledger, the Chief Executive of YHA Australia, talked about the trouble with important regulations and landlord-tenant laws, saying, “Airbnb actually enables landlords to bypass government regulation and, in effect, run illegal hostels.” Of course, Airbnb was quick to respond with tidbits that show the positive impact on the economy and culture of countries where it’s available, along with its Community Compact, a series of pledges designed to treat cities individually and fairly through home sharing.
Hmm. As with any influential new concept, it’s time that’ll really tell how Airbnb is impacting cities. In the meantime, we should all make it a point to enjoy the amazing experience of being a host and a traveler, while respecting the people we meet and our surroundings, wherever we are.
Do you think Airbnb has a dangerous impact on global cities? Sound off with us on Twitter @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty, h/t The Guardian)