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Know the Airbnb Risks
By now, most people are familiar with Airbnb. I wrote about my own experience here. The fact is that it can be a great service for travelers of all types, and it’s changing the worlds of travel and hospitality entirely.

That said, when using Airbnb (or similar services), it’s important to remember that there are risks involved—risks that are not part of the traditional hotel experience. The story of a 19-year-old, told in this New York Times story, is an unfortunate example. As the Times shares, the man was allegedly trapped and assaulted by his Airbnb host in Madrid, all as Airbnb reps chose not to disclose the address to his concerned mother. Police intervention was required, they told her, but she would need to call the police herself. Without action from their end, and met by a wall of disconnecting calls and Spanish recordings when she tried the police, she was ultimately unable to help her son that night.

Of course, the overwhelming majority of Airbnb stories are positive, and often glowing, but as usual, make sure to be smart when you travel—and remember that the sharing economy comes with risks you need to be aware of.

According to the Times article: “Mr. Lopez’s family had a few suggestions for other Airbnb travelers. The guest and a family member or friend should always have the host’s address easily accessible. Make sure your phone has international service and that you know how to call the local emergency number; Mr. Lopez did not realize his phone would allow him to call and said he would have been scared to speak out loud into the phone in any event. Also, a few details on his host’s profile did not match her Facebook page. In retrospect, he wishes he had been more suspicious, even though he said that she had good reviews on Airbnb. The listing has been removed.”

This type of situation is a nightmare and I can only imagine how traumatic it’s been for both the victim and his mother. Before making any Airbnb booking, I’d also suggest getting recommendations from friends and family who have traveled to that destination before. Enable location-sharing services on your phone if you can, so people know exactly where you are. And always trust your instincts.



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1 Comment On "Travel Tip of the Day: Know the Airbnb Risks"
  1. Ian Livingston
    Ian Livingston|

    From reader Ashley:

    “Reading the very upsetting experience of the young man assaulted by an AirB&B host was the last straw for me. My tip: “If you have a disability or on a budget, never use Airbnb.

    I let two rental accommodations go in pricey Vancouver B.C. this spring go in favor of a very reasonably priced Airbnb. I have mobility challenges from Multiple Sclerosis, so needed a special place while seeing my mother and going for medical appointments.

    Two days before the trip, I made contact with the host. She called to cancel my reservation. She said she was concerned that, if I fell, I would sue her, and take her house meant for her quadriplegic daughter. She went on to say she was a volunteer and did not want to be my chauffeur. Amidst my tears, and pleas to pay for any legal liability documents, she said she wanted me to sign, reassuring her I was a resident of B.C. I neither needed nor ever asked her to chauffeur me anywhere, and yet she cancelled my stay.

    The result? Airbnb offering me a $25 discount at another location. None of the locations Airbnb suggested were mobility-friendly. One location had mixed reviews. The end result? I ended up living in a motel for three weeks costing me almost $1,900. And 10 days at a so-called vacation rental. That turned out to be a rental high-rise, undergoing a complete renovation project. At least the landlord there returned the money, unaware of just how disruptive an
    experience it was. The major renovations began on his floor, right during the time of my stay.

    As a seasoned traveler, that Airbnb experience was devastating,
    humiliating, costly, and one that no one should ever go through.

    Another couple I know also booked with Airbnb. The landlord cancelled these two experienced world travelers, before they arrived and they were left scrambling for a place to stay.”

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