Site offers travel alternative

Airbnb, a website launched in August 2008, is a resource used by both travelers and hosts who want to experience a unique and exciting alternative to a hotel while away from home.

The site has accommodations in more than 192 countries displaying everything from a geodesic dome in Coquimbo, Chile, to a downtown apartment in Westmount, Canada. Airbnb accommodation reservations come complete with photos of places and reviews from those who have stayed there. Prices can range anywhere from $30 a night to $3,000.

“The vision is to connect people in real life all around the world,” co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said.

The site, that originated as a resource for people looking for a place to stay while traveling for work, has blossomed into a worldwide community for any guest or host.

“You can book anything from a couch to a castle,” Chesky said.

Local Spokane homeowners have started to participate as well. There are currently more than 20 listings for places to stay all over the lilac city. Local host Rebecca Mack is a fan of the site.

“I think it’s fabulous,” Mack said. “It gets the travel bug to bite people.”

Mack was told about the site through a friend and had experience with more than 17 rentals in Spokane already. She decided to give hosting a try.

“There’s a million lessons to be learned from using something like this,” Mack said. “You have to go over the place with a fine-tooth comb. It has to be really pristine for people not to have a squeamish factor about it.”

Mack gave some advice for those who are thinking of hosting.

“Be welcoming and warm in your communications and be prompt,” Mack said.

Through Airbnb, Mack said, a person can be afforded the opportunity to learn a business model and be independent, but it helps a great deal if you already have experience with tenants.

“For everyone there’s a learning curve,” Mack said. “People have to feel like there’s some level of professionalism in accommodation.”

The Airbnb site said it provides an uncommon and special experience for travelers. It offers an alternative to the conventional hotel room. Spaces can range from a bedroom in a local person’s home to a house all to one’s self.  Airbnb promises a more authentic geographical and cultural experience when staying with hosts.

According to the website, some hosts will even pick guests up at the airport and provide them with a mode of transportation. Others enhance one’s stay with free meals or laundry services.

The Airbnb site gives advice for the best way to guarantee a good night’s stay: book the trip in advance, communicate with a host after dates have been set and be respectful while staying in another person’s residence.

“Imagine this idea that one day millions of people are living with each other in all different cultures all over the world,” Chesky said.

He said he likes the vision of a world like that and thinks it would be a better one.

The site lets visitors pick and choose the dates they would like to stay in a particular place and get direct contact with those who are opening up their homes.

Reservations are made on the site through credit card transactions directly to Airbnb. So far hosts like Mack have not had any bad experiences with traveling tenants.

When asked who has stayed she commented that it’s interesting to see who the posting attracts. She said that some were from far away but so far mostly there have been a lot of Seattle people.

Story by Sandra Tully Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of airbnb.com

Contact Sandra Tully at stully15@my.whitworth.edu.

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