Staying Ethically with AirBnb – Responsible Traveling

Girls Who Travel | Staying Ethically with AirBnb - Responsible Traveling

Staying ethically with AirBnb: Today, I’m wanting to chat about something I used to love, but have found myself feeling not so great about lately: AirBnb. I’m from the Nashville, Tennessee area, where bachelorette parties flock in by the plane full each weekend to celebrate their upcoming nuptials. Many of these parties rely on AirBnb rentals (or other short term rental platforms) to host their stay. Because of this demand for short term rentals, some serious gentrification is occurring. Families who have depended on their rental properties for years are suddenly being out-priced. They are forced out, or having to move for other reasons. Housing that is on the market is becoming harder to afford. That is if it can even be found. And a real housing crisis is occurring, not just in the United States, but in many places around the world. Read on and find out how staying ethically with AirBnB is possible.

Staying Ethically With Airbnb: Negative Impacts Of Airbnb

Girls Who Travel | Staying Ethically with AirBnb - Responsible Traveling

Airbnb Ethical Issues

I recently posted a thread about staying ethically with AirBnb, and the problems that AirBnb causes in our Girls Who Travel Facebook group. There I found that I am not alone! Cities like Amsterdam, Portland, Medellín, Toronto, Barcelona, Los Angeles, and countless others are experiencing the same problems that Nashville is. It’s almost as if AirBnb is creating an entire new wave of urban gentrification. This is harming the cities that many listings occur in. If you aren’t aware of the AirBnb gentrification issue, I urge you to take a few moments and give this article a read.

In case you haven’t heard about gentrification yet, I’ll give you a quick rundown. Gentrification occurs when a neighborhood’s character is changed by more affluent people coming in and buying up real estate. The so-called ‘AirBnB effect’, where people buy real estate not to live in it, but to use it for short term rentals, causes significant concerns on local housing markets, in the United States and around the world. While AirBnb started out as a way to allow hosts to participate in the sharing economy and make a bit of extra money renting out their homes, rental companies quickly started flooding the market. These companies often buy up local listings or manage properties listed on the platform. Less long term rental options are available for locals if the housing supply is swept up by investors catering to short term visitors, and if they are available, the increase in rents often make them unaffordable. 

This is one main example of how AirBnb negatively impacts local communities. For the traveler trying to leave a positive impact on places they visit, this is a real concern. However, the platform also has many positive aspects. AirBnbs use fewer greenhouse gases than traditional hotels. Often AirBnb rentals are more affordable, and can allow families to make a little bit of extra income. Local economies can profit from an increase in AirBnb listings – more tourists bring in more money to support local communities. Which is also a great reminder to shop local, eat local, and spend your money in small businesses, putting food on a local family’s table rather than feeding greedy corporations.

How to Ensure your stay with AirBnb is ethical

This platform is likely not going away any time soon. So how can we ensure that we are using it in a way that doesn’t harm local communities? Luckily, many of the women in our Girls Who Travel community had some fantastic tips for staying ethically with AirBnb

NOTE: Throughout this piece, I’m discussing ways to stay in short-term rentals ethically. I use the term “AirBnb” because it is the most common short-term rental platform. But these guidelines also apply to sites like Booking.com, VRBO, Expedia Vacation Rentals, and all other short-term rental platforms. 

Know Your Host

Girls Who Travel | Staying Ethically with AirBnb - Responsible Traveling

You can easily visit a host’s profile and see their other listings on AirBnb. Usually you see them as “guidebooks” for multiple homes. If they have more than a few AirBnb rentals at different locations around the city, then they are probably a member of an AirBnb management company. Also, you can read the listing description. Sometimes the host says that they won’t be available to communicate with you once you’re in the city. But if so-and-so is, it’s possible that they’re using one of the management companies. I really recommend only staying with hosts who have one home listed, if you are interested in staying ethically with AirBnb.

Home Sharing is the Ticket

Girls Who Travel | Staying Ethically with AirBnb - Responsible Traveling

Remember how I was just talking about those groups that buy entire houses to rent out? One way to avoid supporting those groups is by staying in shared listings. Shared listings are typically an extra room, entire floor, or even an entire guesthouse. This is often on a local family’s property that participate in home sharing to make a little extra money.

By staying in shared listings, you’re supporting that family. You can often experience a more authentic side of the city, as these families are usually more than happy to share their favorite spots! This is a great way to explore popular places like New York City or Los Angeles off the beaten path.

Of course, there are those who exploit shared listings by listing multiple rooms in the same house separately. This is where knowing your host comes back into play, as you can check all of their listings on AirBnb. Home sharing is a great way for staying ethically with AirBnb!

Know the Local Laws

With the rental markets being tense in places with many AirBnb listings, it’s not surprising that cities are regulating and, in some cases, banning AirBnb listings. This somewhat impacts short term visitors, but remember, there are other lodging options. AirBnb even has a page on the “Become a Homes Host” section of their site outlining what some of those regulations might be. What the company doesn’t do very often, though, is remove illegal listings from their site. In fact, it has gone on the record multiple times and stated that they aren’t responsible for vetting to see if listings are legal. They even keep listings up in zip codes where short-term rentals are banned entirely, because the practice negatively impacts the local housing . When cities demand listings are removed, AirBnb often drags their feet in getting those listings down. It’s not pretty, the resulting increase in rents makes it tough for locals to find long term rentals, and it makes staying ethically with AirBnB a challenge.

This means that users are responsible for making sure the places that they’re staying are legal. 

Knowing the legalities requires a bit of research. I usually do a simple Google search “city + AirBnb” to see what information about rental markets pops up. There’s usually at least one article outlining any laws that hosts should be following if the city or country restricts the platform in any way. If the city requires some sort of permit, I’ll make sure that the listing has a proper permit attached. If the city says that the host has to be on site, I’ll message the host to make sure this is the case. Make sure you know the listings on AirBnb are legit. This is key in staying ethically with AirBnb.

Speak Up

When it comes down to it, it is the short term visitors who have to hold platforms like AirBnb accountable. Speak with government representatives about how AirBnb is impacting your community or a community that you’ve traveled to. If you know a listing is illegal, report it to local law enforcement. Leave honest reviews of places you stay if hosts have profiles that check all the legal boxes, but listings that don’t. It’s users responsibility to ensure that these gentrification practices come to an end, that the housing markets and housing supply don’t get out of control before the cities they’re happening in are changed forever.  Be a responsible traveler by staying ethically with AirBnB.

If you want to learn more about the Dos and Don’ts, and find out about staying ethically with AirBnb, listen to this episode of Away She Goes, the Girls Who Travel podcast!

KB Gamblin

About KB: Originally from Kentucky, KB Gamblin is a freelance writer and the blogger behind Her Life in Ruins. KB is a trained archaeologist, lover of history, and passionate traveler. When she’s not at work or on the road, you can find her hanging out with her dog, Indiana Jones.

2 thoughts on “Staying Ethically with AirBnb – Responsible Traveling”

  1. A much needed article. It’s crucial that folks do research when seeking lodging. For example, here in Borikén we have a dire situation in that many wealthy folks from the U.S. move here to buy property with the intention of converting same to AirBnB. These folks are neither culturally tied to this (my) motherland, nor are they married to someone who is descended from this sacred land.

    Read my article published in Australian outlet, Green Left (https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/meet-disaster-gentrification-other-face-puerto-ricos-devastating-hurricanes). Though my article does not specifically target AirBnB & similar lodging, it’s about gentrification.

    One of the sources for my piece, is this YouTube report by independent journalist Bianca Graulau

    For me, as an Afro-Boricua femme who returned to my roots at the age of 53 (years beautiful & years young), I am adamant about fighting gentrification and colonization by folks who are not from here, or have roots here!

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