The Guilty Hotelier: My First Airbnb Experience

Article by: unknown author

Sat June 01, 2013 | 00:00 AM

I’ve been a hotelier for more than a quarter century, creating a home-away-from-home for scores of weary travelers. I’ve taught my hotel teams that there’s nobility in caring for people in mobility, as travel can be both momentous and disastrous. And, the hotel experience can be transcendent or tragic depending upon how we handle the moments of truth that matter the most to our guests.

But, now that I’m aspiring to be the world’s leading expert on festivals, I’m finding that hotels are a scarce commodity in a place like Pamplona when the bulls take over the town, or in Rio when samba becomes a religion in February. So, on this trip to Europe when I planned to witness cheese rolling (Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling), baby jumping (El Colacho), and sacred music wafting (Fes World Sacred Music Festival), I decided to experiment with a five-night stay in an Airbnb property in the swanky Bloomsbury district of London…


I don’t know whether I felt guilty, disappointed, or empty when I experienced my moment of truth opening the door to my studio apartment. Yes, the bellhop in my heart cried “traitor” when I schlepped my bags four stories up a tiny circular staircase to get to my top floor room. My spartan unit lacked charm, any kind of functional welcome book, and shampoo and conditioner, but it did offer a half-finished bottle of Sauvignon Blanc…


And, it did have a functional kitchen, stunning southern light, and was just 172 steps from the entrance to the grand British Museum.


Not bad for $139 per night. In fact, I can probably stay here for five nights for the price of one night in the hotel down the street. While my apartment was rather characterless, my neighborhood was quite the opposite. And, the apartment’s free WiFi reminded me how much I hate the big hotel chains’ rip-off charges for my Internet “plumbing.”


I’ve been doing some work with airbnb, helping them to morph from being a tech company focused on travel to becoming an innovative leader in the hospitality industry. Imagine this: in the next couple of years, Airbnb will surpass Marriott and Hilton in terms of the number of rooms it offers worldwide (in nearly 200 countries), so teaching hundreds of thousands of hosts the basics of hospitality is a pretty meaningful gig.


“My apartment is just on the back side of these apartments that face the British Museum.”


It’s understandable why airbnb offers such a flexible solution for festivals. Consider South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin where, before airbnb’s emergence a few years go, festival/conference attendees got used to driving an hour each way from a shoddy motel given that all the Austin hotels sell out so quickly. In 2013, more people stayed in airbnb accommodations for SXSW than stayed in Austin hotels. That may be the same this New Year’s Eve in New York City, as Airbnb is forecasting that 60,000 people will be staying in their NYC accommodations when the ball drops in Time Square.

So, next time you plan your festival itinerary — especially in Europe, which is Airbnb’s strongest region — check out airbnb’s offerings. You may be surprised by the variety of choice and the impressive prices. As for me, I’m soothing my guilt with a free glass of that Sauvignon Blanc.