When and how should we look for alternatives to Airbnb?

There’s little denying that Airbnb’s stats are impressive: Founded in 2007, Airbnb today has more than 7.7 million listings in 100,000 cities around the world.

Yet, in recent years, Airbnb—and short-term rentals in general—have been a source of growing contention. What was originally a service for people to rent out extra rooms in their home to travelers has morphed into something entirely different… As of May 2023, more than 30 percent of US properties listed on Airbnb were managed by ‘mega-hosts’, with 21 or more property listings. The company has been blamed for increased rental prices and housing shortages, gentrification, and eroding the character of neighborhoods.

In response, cities are fighting back: From San Francisco to Singapore, Airbnb has faced a growing number of complaints and regulations, and in response, restrictions for short-term rentals are tightening. New York City’s Local Law 18 (the Short-Term Rental Registration Law) has reduced the number of Airbnb listings in the city from 40,000 in January 2023 to an approved 2,242 rental hosts as of June 2024. Barcelona recently announced it’s going even further by completely banning all short-term rentals as of 2029.

But Airbnb’s pervasiveness in even the most remote corners of the world make booking with the company a hard habit to break, even for the most mindful travelers. I admit, I’m part of the problem. Since 2014, my partner and I have stayed in about a hundred Airbnb properties, jointly or as solo travelers. Heck, I’m even writing this article from the kitchen table of an Airbnb property in Verona, Italy.

Like all travelers, we have our reasons for renting from Airbnb: With our dietary restrictions, we prefer to make the majority of our meals, so a kitchen is necessary. And as is the case at this exact moment, we’re traveling with pets—much easier to do using Airbnb. So, where’s the balance?

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