Are Online Accommodation Services Safe?2 min read
For a long time, we’ve relied on travel agents and travel websites to book flights, rental cars, and hotels room for our vacations and business trips. But a new online accommodation services trend has emerged recently. People are listing their home and vacation properties on new websites for travelers to rent, usually at a much cheaper rate than standard hotels. And guess what – travelers are actually booking them!
Airbnb, iStopOver, Homeaway, VRBO, and HouseTrip are just a few of the websites that serve as a marketplace for people to list their properties for travelers to rent, whether it’s a vacation home, second home, an apartment, or even a spare bedroom.
All of the booking is done online or from a mobile phone, which poses the question: is this safe?
You’re stepping foot into a stranger’s house or renting your place out to a stranger, no property or background check required. All of these websites rely on customers and hosts overcoming their fear of strangers.
Back in 2011, a woman rented her apartment via Airbnb only to have the renter ransack it, stealing her passport, cash, credit card, jewelry, and various electronics. In order to rectify this and other similar situations, Airbnb implemented a $50,000 Airbnb Guarantee to protect hosts’ properties as well as increasing its customer support team, creating a team to review suspicious activity, and establishing a 24-hour customer support line.
Airbnb’s website also has features to help both hosts and guests to get to know each other before agreeing to anything. They can check each other’s profiles to see how other Airbnb users have rated them, they can look at each other’s social media pages, and exchange messages. Airbnb recommends that their guests and hosts utilize all of these features, and even to verify their IDs by connecting to their social networks and scanning their official ID or confirming personal details.
Airbnb hosts have the ability to set custom trust parameters for bookings and guests who don’t meet the specified requirements won’t be able to make a reservation.
Most of these sites are self-regulated and, though they are always making improvements, you’re still dealing with a stranger.
So while these services are creating tools to make people more comfortable with the idea, this traveling scenario isn’t for everyone – it’s a frugal option for adventurous travelers.
Is that you?
Photo from The Telegraph/AP