Air Bnb Hurts Not Helps

How Airbnb Hurts Not Helps Locals

In an era where travellers seek out the coveted the local experience, no one wants to hear that the most popular home-sharing platform Airbnb hurts not helps local communities. If you live in a large city, popular mountain town or anywhere tourists frequent, you have most likely read or heard about the great AirBnb debate. And if you’ve checked in with your travel advisor lately and mentioned you might be considering AirBnb for an upcoming trip, they probably dished out a stern look of concern, and with very good reason. If you are unfamiliar with how AirBnb works, here’s a description of Airbnb according to Wikipedia:

“Airbnb Inc is an American online marketplace and hospitality service brokerage company based in San Francisco, California, United States. Members can use the service to arrange or offer lodging, primarily homestays, or tourism experiences.”

Sounds pretty benign right? Just a few folks, renting out their homes, a few days at a time to willing tourists, to make sure some of the bills are paid. There are currently over 6 million listings on the Airbnb website, in 191 countries and 65,000 cities around the world. According to this research site, Airbnb averages some half a million people are sleeping in an Airbnb every night. And the reason it’s so popular is three-fold: Reasonably priced accommodations with facilities such as kitchens and laundry (not generally available in hotels); Unique properties (everything from tree-houses, designer trailers to mansions); And most properties are generally based in residential neighbourhoods so you get more of that local feel. That all sounds fantastic, but without sounding dramatic, there is a much darker side to this particular accommodation option. Here’s how Airbnb hurts not helps locals:

Legality Issues

It’s estimated that well over 50% of all listings on the platform are in fact, illegal. That is, they don’t pay any form of taxes, have no licensing and operate completely unregulated. Now this may not seem like such a big deal, until we start getting into things like liability, safety (I’ll elaborate on this point later) and accountability. But back to liability – Illegally run Airbnb’s are not properly insured, meaning if any of your personal belongings are damaged by let’s say, a flood, bedbugs, another guest or any number of other instances, you are not covered.

Lack of Safety and Security

Over the last five or six years, I’ve seen a significant increase in traveller’s requests to feel safe and secure. The media is a proverbial minefield when it comes to frightening tourism stories, and while some of it may seem like hype, there is still plenty to be concerned about. While hosts are supposed to be verified, you have no idea who else has access to the property you’ve just dropped your hard earned money on. I’ve heard everything from friends of the host dropping in; Dog walkers dropping off pampered pooches to unsuspecting house guests (ACTUALLY HAPPENED); To nosey in-laws “checking-in” on things. If something like this happens in a hotel, it would be a massive invasion of privacy and breach of the hotel’s privacy regulations. The other issue is safety. Fire detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, these are just a few safety considerations that an Airbnb may not comply with (or have to) due to lackadaisical local laws.

Discrimination

Up until last year, Airbnb hosts were permitted to requests the photos of perspective renters before they requested to book a property. You can imagine the civil rights violations this caused in places like the United States. After operating for ten years with this policy, Airbnb finally wisened up and changed the policy so hosts could only request a photo after a traveller had already booked and paid for their stay. It’s an improvement, but there are still plenty of reports of bookings being cancelled, the majority of those being Black, Muslim, Arabic or other ethnic sounding names.

Interrupts Local Life

Wait, whaaaat? You’re probably thinking to yourself the whole reason you booked an Airbnb is because you want to live, breathe and explore like a local, right? The truth is, because so many Airbnb’s are illegal (especially the apartments), your presence is not necessarily welcome nor appreciated. Apartment owners pay strata and council fees that provide a framework of rules and regulations everyone who lives in the building must adhere to. Apartment building dwellers often complain they don’t feel safe with strangers coming and going, and temporary renters doing respect or treat common spaces with care which in the end, costs everyone money, not just the host.

Barcelona’s La Rambla

Airbnb’s Push the Locals Out & Contribute to Over-tourism

 This is a headline you’ve probably seen once or twice if you live in a tourist-centric city. My own hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia has a less than 1% vacancy rate and some of the highest rents anywhere in the world. With apartment owners opting to rent their spaces out on a nightly or weekly basis, they’re able to cash in big bucks, and with rental space scarcity, apartment prices not only sky-rocket, locals are no longer able to afford to live in their own cities. Airbnb’s are by no means the sole cause of this phenomena, but they certainly haven’t helped.

In cities like Barcelona, short-term rental companies have caught on and have bought out or developed entire city blocks, often in the most coveted neighbourhoods (ie. La Rambla) with the sole purpose of renting them out to tourists. A recent article in the New Yorker stated that historic neighbourhoods like Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter has seen as much as a 45% loss of local residents. So while one may be on the hunt for accommodation with a local feel, tourists may be hard pressed to find the locals.

airbnb hurts not helps
Trevi Fountain in Rome

Airbnb Doesn’t Exactly Support the Local Economy

In a time where we really need to start looking at sustainability and the impacts our travel has on local communities, Airbnb hurts not helps the local economy. First off, Airbnb’s are not subject to the same licensing costs or taxes that licenced and registered hotels and accommodation properties face. Basically, hosts pay the Airbnb platform a fee, and use the rest as a mortgage helper, or just pocket the profits, tax free. Now, you may argue that patrons of the property are contributing to the local economy, however, what they contribute is minuscule compared to what a registered accommodation contributes or, a permanent tenant. Hotels, B&B’s and hostels have full and part-time staff they must pay. Airbnb’s do not.

Properties are Not Properly Vetted

As I mentioned above, there are some 6 million rooms currently listed on Airbnb, and more being added every day. Do you think that every single one of these properties is inspected, vetted or managed properly? There are of course some highly respectable hosts on the platform, who provide their guests with wonderful stays, however, they are the exception and not the rule. Guests houses, hotels, B&B’s , hostels even registered vacation properties are required to maintain a certain standard If they wish to keep their licences.

The Airbnb platform has enjoyed wild success, and despite its negatives, still remains one of the most popular forms of home-sharing accommodation. And in locations where occupancy rates are not an issue, Airbnb can be a great way to experience life as a local. However, as a consultant committed to supporting local communities and sustainability, I will always endeavor to provide alternative options that still allow travellers to get their boots on the ground and soak as much local life as possible.

travel empowers women

How Adventure Travel Empowers Women in Local Communities

Adventure travel has been my favourite niche to sell for over a decade, and for many reasons. I think it encourages travelers to appreciate the symbiotic relationship between Earth and animal kingdom; It provides travelers with the opportunity to experience an alternative way of life; And more recently, adventure travel empowers women in local communities by providing employment opportunities, financial independence and a sense of personal agency. And with rate of international tourism on the rise each year (up 7% according to UNWTO) and women occupying more than 85% of positions within the industry, it’s not only important but absolutely essential  to support women living in these local communities.

travel empowers women

Why women specifically? 

When it comes to education, women and young girls are the first ones to lose out or be denied access to formal education. Domestic or familial duties often see them plucked out of school, forced into marriage, made responsible for taking care of their siblings at home, or exploited in some way that takes away their agency. A lack of education may hinder access to economic independence and make them vulnerable to exploitation. Tourism can be a means for women to glean a respectable living without formal education. It can provide a way for them to participate in the formal economy and most importantly, this empowerment encourages them to create long-term and sustainable opportunities for themselves and their communities.

travel empowers women

So how does adventure travel empower women? 

Adventure travel tends to bring travelers off the beaten path, which often means you’re experiencing deeper cultural immersion and traveling through more rural and traditional communities. Travelers who choose these types of experiences do so because they want to engage with local cultures, they want to learn about their histories, art forms, cuisine etc. Adventure travel empowers women in a way that they are able to use their domestic skills such as cooking, hosting or creating handicrafts to make money. In parts of the world where a ‘working woman’ was against tradition, adventure travel and tourism has opened doors, planted the seed, and as you will read next, encouraged local women to be entrepreneurial.

What can I do to support women in local communities with my travel choices? 

When you are doing your research on adventure travel companies who give back, there are plenty of options, around the world, who contribute to the empowerment of women. However, not all give the same way. I have two organizations for you to consider.

The first adventure travel company to think about is Canadian based G Adventures. The company was founded in 1990 by avid backpacker Bruce Poon Tip, and has more than 680 itineraries in more than in 130 countries. After escorting travelers to the furthest reaches of the planet for 13 years, The Planeterra Foundation was born in 2003:

Planeterra connects social enterprises to the tourism marketplace by providing catalyst funding, capacity training, and a market link for small businesses supporting women, youth, and indigenous communities.

Planeterra focuses on long-term sustainability and social enterprise. Which means, they work in partnership with local communities, ensuring projects are spearheaded by those on the ground. 100% of the proceeds provided by G Adventures goes directly to fund the more than 50 projects they operate across 6 continents. From Women on Wheels in New Delhi, to the Sisterhood of Survivors in Nepal to the Nagadas Community Homestay in rural Java, there are ample opportunities to give, learn about local issues and fascinating cultures, and empower women.

travel empowers women

Another adventure travel company I enjoy working with is Intrepid and Intrepid Urban Adventures, an Australian based group offering up more than 1500 itineraries in 120 countries. Like G Adventures, their focus is on locally led initiatives:

We support local organisations tackling important community issues all over the world – from conservation and wildlife protection, to education, healthcare and human rights.

The Intrepid Foundation receives proceeds from its tours, but if you choose book your tour with them and donate to the Intrepid Foundation, they will match your donation (up to $1000 per individual donor), they pay for all administrative costs which means 100% of your donation goes to the project. The Intrepid Foundation not only supports the empowerment of women, but also works in concert with locally run organizations to eradicate illiteracy, provide vocational help and support to those living with disabilities, and encourage social change through story-telling. With forty-four projects in total, you are bound to find one that aligns with your passion.

So if you’ve been dreaming up a culturally immersive, environmentally enlightening or socially transformative trip, and want to support the most vulnerable in local communities, remember that adventure travel empowers women when you partner with the right organization.

7 Reasons Why Travel Agents Are Still Relevant in 2018

“Why would I need a travel agent when I can book everything online?”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that or read that, I could quit selling travel and wander the world full time. With the plethora of online information at your fingertips, it would seem that booking that dream trip to Hawaii or all-inclusive getaway to Mexico is easy as pie. But before you jump on those rock-bottom cheap travel deals, or entrust some random booking engine with your credit card, find out why travel agents are still relevant in 2018.

Read more

Bucketlist Alaskan Cruise

A Bucketlist Alaskan Cruise: Glacier Viewing, Small Town Charm & Why You Should Go Now

It’s high noon and while much of the ship is congregating in the Lido Market for lunch, or out on the crowded observation deck, we’re perched on our private verandah, cameras in hand, trying to catch our breath with every passing spectacle. The sun affectionately bathes the jagged shorelines of Glacier Bay, emphasizing glistening, snow-packed crevices high above and turquoise, iceberg riddled waters below. Seabirds effortlessly ride the arctic thermals at eye level, and in our gentle wake, small fish leap from the depths to catch levitating insects on the ocean surface. What is almost as impressive as the scenery, is how 82,500 tonnes of steel can navigate its way through such narrow passages, and making about as much noise as a small canoe. And then you see it. The Marjerie Glacier; An impressive twenty-one mile long, twenty-five story high wall of vibrant blue glacial ice. This is what a bucketlist Alaskan cruise is all about, and it’s not a trip you want to put off any longer.

Read more

family fun

10 Tips for Traveling with Children Under Age 2

Traveling with children under age 2 (or any age) is a daunting proposition and can cause a great deal of anxiety if you’re not prepared. And therein lies the key; Preparation. When my little guy was born back in July, the countdown to getting his first passport stamp began, but so did the painstaking research into what we were going to need to make his first plane ride as seamless as possible. Here are some tips and lessons I gleaned from my own research and experience, as well as a few from other family travel experts:

Before You Get to the Airport

1. Baby Gear Rental Companies 

If you’re traveling with children somewhere in North America, look into renting baby gear to ease streamline the packing process. Loose Lips Magazine contributor and new Mommy Jessica Proctor was recently in Palm Springs (the same week we were as it happened) and rented a crib and high chair from Desert Baby  For a mere $40 a week this company dropped off and picked up the equipment from the doorstep of her AirBnb!

2. Don’t Overpack Your Checked-Baggage

I admit it, I was so guilty of it this. My son was born in the summer and I was gifted so many adorable  outfits that he couldn’t wear because he was so little and since I was finally heading to the sun, I brought them with me. All. Off. Them. Let’s be real. He ended up wearing maybe 8-1o outfits during the 8 days we were there. An outfit a day is fine, plus a couple of extras for any possible “blow-outs.”

traveling with children

3. Pack Your Diaper Bag Carefully

Just because you’re traveling with an infant doesn’t mean Airport Security are going to go easy on you. If you bring your own formula/breastmilk (yes, you can do this), do yourself a favour and place it in one of those giant freezer bags for easy inspection. Do the same with your diaper creme, and anything else in liquid form. Here are a few things you should absolutely include when packing your diaper bag:

  • Plenty of Diapers
  • Diaper Creme
  • Wipes
  • Baby Tylenol – Frequent flyer Beth Claridge never left home without it
  • 2-3 onesies for any necessary outfit changes plus one full outfit in case your luggage gets lost
  • At least one outfit change for you (You can pack this in your own carry-on)
  • Plastic bags to place any contaminated clothes
  • Change Pad (Airplane and airport bathrooms are gross)
  • Anti-bacterial wipes (Airplane seats are even more gross!)
  • Teething toy, soother,
  • Burb Cloth
  • Bibs
  • Blankie for snuggling up
  • Toys you don’t care about (because let’s face it, something’s getting lost along the way)
  • Muslin Baby Cover – These are perfect for breast feeding, swaddling (if you’re babe is into that), or as as a blanket.
  • Freemie Cups – New Mama @criscortijo just took her little one on a long-haul flight to Peru and like most new moms, she had to pump every few hours. This product allows you to do it discretely.

3. Cover Your Bases with Travel Insurance

I have the insurance conversation with every one of my clients because I think it’s downright irresponsible to travel without it, especially if you’re traveling with children anywhere in North America. While many credit card companies offer travel medical it can be quite limiting, with lengthy lists of pre-existing conditions that would prevent coverage. Plus, if you miss your flight, are delayed or miss a connection, travel insurance is there to cover the costs. If you’re traveling with your wee ones, you don’t want to take any chances with substandard insurance. Ask your travel agent about the type of coverage you need and travel with peace of mind.

traveling with children

4. Book Seats Ahead of Time  

In the past you may have played the whole “I’ll-take-my-chances-at-check-in” game to avoid paying for advanced seat selection, but trust me, you don’t want to deal with that mess when you get to the airport. You are at the mercy of ground staff, and not to throw them under the bus, but it’s not their responsibility to seat where its most convenient for you. So unless you want be stuck in the middle seat, miles from the bathroom or separated from your travel partner, always pay the extra and book your seats (with me!) ahead of time.

5. Try to Book Flights According to Babies Sleep Schedule

This is not always possible, and often, we are at the mercy of carrier schedules. However, if you’re traveling overseas, red-eye/overnight flights can be easier in terms of your baby adjusting to jet-lag. Your baby can sleep through the night (if you’re lucky enough to have one of those little angels) and wake up in the morning in destination. Some moms find it’s easier to book their flights in the morning because their babies are fussier near the end of the day and into the evening hours.

traveling with children

6. Invest in Good a Travel Stroller

My smart minimalist friends prefer to use baby carriers when they travel, but consider either investing in a good travel stroller or rent one when you’re in destination. Strollers can double as a high chair and, if you’re traveling in a hot climate, having a miniature furnace strapped to you 24/7 is no fun. We use a Mountain Buggy Umbrella Nano Stroller – It only weighs 13lbs, folds up small enough you can store it in an overhead bin, and takes seconds to fold out.

7. Check-In 24 Hours Before Flight

Similar to seat selection, some people don’t bother checking in online 24 hours in advance, but there has never been a more crucial time to get into the habit than if you’re traveling with children under age 2. You want to avoid standing in as few line-up’s as possible, so pre-pay for your baggage, make sure your seats are selected, and if you haven’t brought your own snacks, consider purchasing your meals ahead of time (if you’re traveling with a low cost carrier) so you don’t have to worry about anything other than keeping your little one occupied on board.

At the Airport 

traveling with children

8. Arrive Early

I know, I know, I’ve just told you to check-in 24 hours in advance, so why should you have to arrive early? Because going through security with children under age 2 can be a stressful experience. And you never know if you’ll have to make a trip to the bathroom (or multiple) for a “hose down.” Arriving 2.5-3 hours before an international flight will give you plenty of time to drop off your bags, get through security and make the little one is as fresh as a daisy for their flight. Remember to pre-pack your milk and any gels or creams (diaper creme) in plastic bags (I used giant freezer bags) for quick inspection.

9. Board Last!

You know when they announce that anyone traveling with children or in need of assistance may board first, ignore that. Unless you have a grave concern about overhead space, you don’t want to pro-long the amount of time babe spends in close quarters. Use the “divide-and-conquer” method if you’re traveling with your partner. Have them go on board first with the carry-on, and you can follow later. Before your seated, make sure to have those secret weapons like snacks, fun toys, or GASP, a pre-loaded iPad tucked away below the seat in front of you rather than up above. It’s all about easy access.

10. Take a long, deep breath

Give your babe a bottle or the breast during take-off and landing. The sucking motion will help them equalize those little ear drums. Your little one might cry at one point during the flight. They may even scream for a brief moment. But remember, it’s only a moment in time. And while there may the odd dirty look, people do have more compassion for struggling parents than you might think. Chances are, many of your fellow passengers are parents themselves. Don’t be afraid to move around the cabin (when it’s safe of course), make friends with the flight attendants, and above all, breathe. It’s going to be okay.

 

traveling with children

Bon Voyage!

booking a villa

12 Reasons Why Booking a Villa is Totally Worth It

Booking a villa was not necessarily a well-known accommodation option for families or large groups a decade ago. Once upon a time, sun-seeking group travelers only had the option of spending their hard earned time and money at some gargantuan resort, hoping to enjoy some relaxation and tranquility, only to have to drag themselves out of bed at the crack of dawn to snag a few beachfront chairs; Or putting up with rowdy resort guests, enduring cramped quarters and and undesirable room locales. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of beautiful resorts out there offering premium experiences for large groups, but maybe it’s time to consider booking an alternative. Here are 12 reasons why booking a villa is totally worth it..

Read more

being bumped

3 Ways to Avoid Being Bumped From Your Flight

There is nothing worse than arriving at your gate, passport in hand, luggage all checked-in, beach bag slung over your shoulder, sun sand and fun mere hours away and then, a few ominous words tear you from your cocktail-infused daydream: “Would Mr. Joe please come to the front desk?” You gather your things and saunter up to the desk, all the while secretly hoping you’re about to get a surprise upgrade to Premium Economy when you’re about to get hit with the “you-thought-you-were-getting -to-Maui-tonight-but-guess-again” schpeel. The airline staff gives you an apologetic look and utters the words: “You’re being bumped.”

Read more

5 Reasons to book a Topdeck Tour

Every travel consultant worth their salt has a portfolio of trusted tour companies to share with their clients. I have a few favourites, depending on the demographic, but for anyone between 18 into their mid thirties, one of my top choices is Topdeck. With more than 40 years of awesome tour experience under their belt, Topdeck has more than earned their stripes on the organized tour landscape. And after personally travelling with them on three separate occasions in Africa, North America and Europe, I have 5 great reasons to get you on a Topdeck tour:

Read more

UnCruise: A New Way to Love Cruising

The objections (and misconceptions) to conventional cruising are endless, and to be honest, as an independent traveler myself, cruising was never been my preferred method of travel. But a recent family cruise around the Hawaiian Islands made me appreciate why travelers love cruising. Dining like royalty, being rocked to sleep every night, exploring a new port every day – It’s exciting. But if you’re like me and love the idea of seeing the world from its oceans and waterways, but doing it with 2500 people makes your wanderlusting heart palpitate, I have a solution; Tap into your inner ‘un-ness’ and set sail on an UnCruise.

Read more