The New York Times has an interesting piece about traveling the ‘human way’ – in other words, find houses, apartments and various other dwelling variations rather than stay in a hotel.
I learn about a short-term rental service called AirBnB.com, their tagline btw is: travel like a human. Called the “Ebay for space” by Time Magazine, Airbnb is an online marketplace allowing anyone from private residents to commercial properties to rent out their extra space. The reputation-based site allows for user reviews, verification, and secure online transactions. Listings include vacation rentals, private rooms, entire apartments, bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels, castles, treehouses, and many other traditional and non-traditional accommodations.
I have to admit, a treehouse definitely sounds more compelling than a cold, lifeless motel room providing there’s mosquito nets if in more tropical areas. Then again, I doubt I’d get wifi in a treehouse or a hot shower with great water pressure, but you most certainly would have ambience and surrounded by nature on all sounds.
You can find a studio apartment for as low as 65 Euros a night in Paris only ten minutes away from the Louvre. Other sites such as iStopOver.com and Crashpadder.com offer similar offerings. In other words, travel like a human and get the comforts of home for much less than you’d pay for a hotel.
Couchsurfing has become more popular in recent years, which is essentially a service in which members offer a spare couch — or bed, or floor space — to fellow Couchsurfers, at no charge. When I was at SXSW last year in Austin, I ran into several people who were couchsurfing there (smart given how ridiculously high the hotels were that week). The same applied to people I talked to at CES last year in Las Vegas. Apparently it is growing so fast that the phenomena has two million people in 238 countries as members. that’s because travel is broken and service at hotels is often an afterthought.
Like airlines, hotels are going after every nickel. There are so many extra charges, it’s hard to keep track: the often ridiculous amount for daily wifi access (more than half the time it isn’t even reliable), overpriced canned soda, $30 room service bills for a very basic breakfast, luggage storage, bellmen tips, 5 different kinds of taxes – the list goes on. They even charge you to RECEIVE a fax. Soon, like restaurants have started doing, we’ll be paying for employee’s medical insurance as well, as if that should be the ‘guests’ responsibility. Restaurants are getting away with it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if hotels adopted a similar obnoxious policy. Bottom line, travelers will get fed up and go where service works – other consumers with rooms to rent, many of whom have felt similar travel pains.
Social networking at its best, these services tap into the power of other ‘trusted sources’ and reviews from their community. Other sites will emerge to make it even more targeted based on similar interests and tastes.
Photo Credit: Ed Alcock