AirBnb: An Online Vacation Rentals Marketplace

Do you want to save money on vacation by staying in a furnished flat instead of an expensive hotel? IF this interests you, then keep reading below:

What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is an online marketplace for vacation rentals. Airbnb does not own any properties, it simply connects “hosts” with properties to rent with “guests” looking to rent rooms or properties. Each user must create a profile which helps promote a social networking element to the service. Airbnb can be accessed via its website or mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Airbnb started in San Francisco in 2008 and has gone global with over 800,000 listings in 190 countries. Airbnb has connected over 17m guests in over 34,000 cities. 

How Does Airbnb Work?
In order to use Airbnb, each user needs to create a personal profile. Personal profiles are public and include information about the “host” or “guest”, user reviews of properties, shared social connections and user recommendations of “guests” and “hosts”.

If you want to rent out your property, “hosts” can list everything including price, detailed property description, house rules, amenities, neighbourhood information as well as posting multiple photos. After each rental, a “guest” can provide feedback about the property and the “host”. And each “host” can leave feedback on their “guest”. All of this feedback is public and helps users to build up their public profiles. The reviews and recommendations help other users to decide whether to rent out a particular property or transact with a particular “host” or “guest”.   

“Hosts” can list their properties for free on Airbnb and they have full control over pricing. “Hosts” can charge different prices based on the time of year, or for the length of booking (daily, weekly, monthly etc.). “Hosts” have full control over which “guests” book their property. For example, a “host” can request further information about “guests” when they submit a booking. “Hosts” have 24 hours to decide whether to accept or reject a booking request.  

Private Messaging System and Payments:
“Hosts” and “guests” communicate before and after a booking through the Airbnb private messaging system which is very user friendly. The mobile apps are particularly handy if you are not travelling with a computer.  Only after a “host” accepts a particular booking will the “guest” be given the phone number of the “host”, as an alternative to the messaging system. “Guests” and “hosts” need to communicate between themselves to agree a meeting time and place.

Payments are made through the Airbnb website. All fees are clearly stated, ie. whether the “host” charges a cleaning fee or administrative fee in addition to the nightly or weekly rent. Airbnb collects payments in full from “guests” once a reservation is accepted, however, Airbnb only releases funds to “hosts” 24 hours after check-in to ensure everything is as expected. Payments can be made by credit card, debit card, PayPal, Alipay (China only) and Google Wallet. 

Personal Experience:
I first used Airbnb for the first time during my August 2014 trip to Central Europe, and I have used it on every trip since then.  I found the search features really useful as you can filter based on price, location, number of rooms, etc.  Also, Airbnb properties show up on a map, and you can scroll through the online map and nearby Airbnb properties will pop up. I found the prices on Airbnb to be cheaper than hotels and apartments, and offering better value for money than hostels.

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