Why I ❤ Hotels (in the age of AirBnb)
by Mara Notte
Owner, Notte Studios
"Bed & Breakfast" isn't what it used to be. These days, breakfast is rarely even included with your BNB... So what's the fascination with this growing trend in accommodation?
Is it the ease of booking online? Do travelers feel more in control believing that they are supporting local, everyday people? Do we like to feel that we, too, could make a buck from renting out our own homes? Or maybe we just want to stay in less touristy areas in order to have a more authentic experience?
As a frequent traveller and someone who has lived in three different countries, I have a lot of experience with accommodation. Throughout my career, I have worked on different sides of Travel, Hospitality, and Technology, and had a chance to see how these industries work together behind the scenes. Here's what I have learned, and why I still love hotels in the age of the BNB...
Changing Landscapes & Rising Rents
The myth has been busted for me - Too many tourists staying in "less touristy" areas is now causing rents to rise, pricing out locals, and inviting gentrification that chips away at the very personality of these neighborhoods. Large investment companies are buying up and renting out short-term apartments, removing opportunities from local people/families.
On top of that, BNB rentals are not always legal, even if listed on sites like Airbnb. Check your local ordinances to find out laws for minimum/maximum stays - Often there are caps on the number of days, and rules for renting out primary residences vs. secondary properties. For example, in Los Angeles, a law was recently passed that allows hosts to rent out only their “primary residence,” not second homes/investment properties.
Services & Amenities
Your BNB host may not be well versed in hospitality and/or customer service (or even English). There are certainly exceptional BNB hosts out there, but this training is not a requirement. Hotels, in addition to regular training, are subject to "mystery shoppers" who call in or show up pretending to be guests, to check that their customer service is up to par.
In a BNB, you are staying in a stranger's home – You will have to be respectful of their property and the hours that they may or may not be available to check you in/out, answer questions, or manage problems. Most modern hotels have someone at the front desk 24 hours a day.
Non-Smoking is not a requirement in some countries - If the guest before you happened to smoke inside the BNB, you might just have to deal with it. Especially if you paid before arrival with a no refunds policy, and already brought your suitcase into the room. Hotels have strict policies for non-smoking rooms and steep fines for violators.
Wifi, hot water, and heat are luxuries in some countries. Yes, even in tourist hot spots such as Rome, Italy. American travelers may be surprised to find that only 3kw of electricity can be used in a residence at once, which means locating the fuse box after accidentally using the hair dryer and the washing machine at the same time. Central heating is switched on every year after 2nd November, and switched off on 3rd March. If it's cold before or after that (and it often is), you'll have to grab an extra blanket.
Some BNBs will be kind enough to leave you a bottle of water in the fridge, or maybe a soap or shampoo in the bathroom. Hotels have an abundance of extra towels, toiletries, and countless other amenities, and if they don't already offer a shuttle service to/from the airport, they'll usually be happy to call you a taxi. And hotels are much more likely to include that other "B" - Breakfast!
Inspections: Cleanliness & Safety
BNBs are not always subject to inspections and may not be as well insured as hotels, or have the means to periodically replace aging mattresses or bedding. For example, you may have seen AAA Diamond ratings when searching for accommodation - Hotels must first pass an inspection in order to in order to receive the AAA Diamond Rating and be designated as AAA Inspected & Approved. They will then be placed among a select group of hotels to be recommended to AAA members. There is no standard for BNB inspections. Have you checked the mattress for bed bugs?
Standards of cleaning for BNBs are not as stringent as those in hotels. Hotel housekeeping staff are well trained for their line of work, and standards must be met in order to keep the reputation of the hotel and/or for the hotel to be able to remain under the name of its particular chain or franchise. There are regular brand inspections for chains like Best Western, Intercontinental, etc. that the hotels must pass in order call themselves "Best Western," "Intercontinental," etc.
Fire Safety - I've been shocked living in Italy, that there are so many residential buildings without smoke detectors. Hotels are required to abide by local fire and safety laws, including (but not limited to) smoke detectors, sprinklers, fire alarms for visual/hearing impaired, posted escape routes, and front desk staff in some locations are trained for first aid/emergency plans. Does your BNB offer this?
Supporting Local Communities
Hotels are job creators - From front desk, management, housekeeping, and maintenance, to restaurant and bar staff, a single hotel might employ hundreds of people, all of whom are at your service for the duration of your stay.
Online platforms like Airbnb have essentially taken the place of travel agents - But that doesn't mean they've replaced the level of service or expertise, or even that they offer better deals. Your local travel agent has probably been out networking with hotels, airlines, and transportation services from all over the world to make sure they can organize the itinerary that works best for you, and at a great price. If saving money is your only concern, and service/amenities aren't too important, there's probably a great BNB out there for you, and you might even get lucky and have a wonderful host.
But if you're like me and want to know your room will be clean and safe, your stay will be comfortable, and you'll have amenities or transportation services when you need them, call around a few hotels and you might be delighted when "locals" answer the phone, help you to get to know the area, and wish you to have a pleasant stay.
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