I don’t stay in Airbnbs anymore. It’s morally sketchy — and hotels are cheaper and better in every way.

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Isabel Heine was an early user of Airbnb, but has since turned away from the platform. Isabel Heine

  • Isabel Heine was an early user of Airbnb but now she only stays at hotels. 
  • She had second thoughts after hearing about locals being driven out by Airbnb investors. 
  • Heine also says that the Airbnb cleaning fees and rules were getting ridiculous. 

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Isabel Heine, a 40-year-old attorney from Queens, New York. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

I was an early user of Airbnb. When it first came out in 2008, it seemed perfect for traveling with big groups, and I was in that stage of life where there was always a wedding or a bachelorette party to go to.

It was so nice to be able to get one big house and stay together with all my friends as opposed to getting multiple hotel rooms. Plus, it was less expensive. It made sense economically to split the cost between all of us — and it was just fun to have that sense of camaraderie.

I also loved that we could go grocery shopping and cook food instead of eating out every night. I stayed in Airbnbs everywhere from New Orleans to Costa Rica to India. It felt more convenient and more fun than most hotel options.

I used Airbnb for about a decade straight before I started having second thoughts

I started noticing high cleaning fees that just seemed ridiculous to me — sometimes, the cleaning fees were up to $500! Then there were the rules and requirements, like having to clean up after yourself before you leave.

I’m not a slob or anything, but having to wash all the dishes, wipe down the countertops, strip the sheets, and put the towels in the wash — it just felt like too much. And on top of that, I was still getting charged a cleaning fee.

It started feeling like it didn’t really make sense financially to stay at Airbnbs anymore — then I started feeling sketchy about it morally

I saw what it was doing to local housing markets, including my home in New York City, where there were more Airbnb listings than available apartments in 2022.

And it wasn’t just New York — in Mexico City, Americans were renting apartments on Airbnb by Americans at prices that many locals couldn’t afford.

It’s so sad to think that locals are being driven out of their own cities by investors buying properties to turn them into Airbnbs.

Once I started seeing stories like this, I couldn’t get them out of my head. And I started thinking: Do I really want to be a part of this incredibly troublesome trend? The answer was a definitive no. 

Add that to the increased costs and rules of staying in an Airbnb, and I’m officially back to hotels. 

Now that I’m done with Airbnb, I feel relieved

I stayed in a hotel recently with my family, and it was amazing. Not only was it $160 cheaper than an Airbnb, but there were so many amenities. It wasn’t anything fancy, but I forgot how luxurious even mid-range hotels can be. There was coffee and breakfast in the lobby every morning, and staff freshened up our room each day while we were out.

It was also nice to know there was a hotel employee there 24/7. It made me feel safer than staying in a stand-alone house. I did miss having a kitchen to cook my own food in, which is one of the pros with so many Airbnbs.

We have a trip coming up, and in an ideal world, we would stay in a locally owned bed-and-breakfast. That way, we get the charm of a local place, and we know the money goes to the owners and the community. That would be ideal.

Maybe it’s the bias of my social circle — I work at a social-justice organization — but it seems like the tide is turning away from Airbnbs. We want to be aware of the effects our decisions have on our wallets and on other people. Airbnb just doesn’t align with us anymore, financially or morally.

Editor’s note: A representative for Airbnb provided this statement: There have been more than 1.4 billion guest arrivals at Airbnb listings in 220 countries and regions around the world since our founding, and our community of Hosts and guests continues to grow. We take feedback from our community seriously and have made hundreds of product changes to our service–including steps to address fee transparency and checkout instructions–over the last three years.

Source: Business Insider