Staying at a hotel on a business trip is a complete nightmare. I’m at the mercy of check-in times. My bed is stiff, and the sheets are too starchy. I’m forced to dine out for all of my meals, or succumb to the outrageous expenses of the hotel’s restaurants. Housekeeping wakes me up before I’m ready, and there never seems to be enough natural light.
Here’s what Airbnb’s business-traveler model has to offer those who loathe hotels as much as I do.
After a long day of balancing business meetings with jet lag, all I wanted to do in Brussels was curl up in my bed with a hot cup of tea. My Belgian host Luther, who had a great flat near Avenue Louise, invited me to share his homemade dinner of curried lentils and jasmine rice, and the fresh towels he provided for me felt amazing after I took a shower in my private washroom.
One of the best feelings is coming home to your personal space after a long day of work. I like knowing I can continue my routine of sweatpants-and-Netflix-binging-before-bed in a place that’s more like my first apartment, and less like an eerily quiet, Lysol-scented chamber of commercialized interior design.
Aside from being sold out, hotels will sometimes raise their prices during holidays or special events. It’s usually pretty easy for me to find an Airbnb property any time of year, however, since there are over 500,000 locations in the current database. Most business travel occurs in big cities, and those residents are always looking to earn some extra money to offset the cost of rent.
When I had to book a room the day before a publishing conference in Philadelphia, only three hotels had vacancies — one was near the airport, another had a one-star rating, and none were less than $200 a night. But there were well over 20 apartments in and around Center City for me to choose from, despite the late notice.
I always prefer to meet with clients in a place that’s quiet, has comfortable seating, and isn’t lit with life-sucking fluorescent bulbs. One of the best uses of Airbnb I’ve seen wasn’t even for sleeping — it was for partying. My business partner rented out a baller loft space in Midtown Manhattan to host a book launch. He easily set up catering in the kitchen area, and the open floor plan allowed for a lot of people to feel comfortable in a workable space. Since it was basically someone’s apartment, he didn’t have to rent tables or chairs.
Business travelers don’t need to reserve stuffy hotel conference rooms, or set up meetings in loud cafes. A lot of properties on Airbnb are beautifully designed spaces that create the perfect setting for inspiring coworkers, or presenting information to new clients that will leave a unique impression.
If I’m faced with a rate for a hotel room that matches a rate on Airbnb, I opt for the latter every time — because I know I’m getting more than just a crash pad. For less than the price of the cheapest hotel in Oslo, I was able to rent a studio apartment with a full kitchen and doorman in the funky Grünerløkka neighborhood. No, it didn’t come with housekeeping, or a jacuzzi tub, but it had free wifi and a sleeve of delicious Norwegian biscuits to welcome me.
I was able to save money on meals by cooking breakfast and packing lunches, and I didn’t didn’t have to tip anybody. Even though a lot of business travelers are able to expense things like meals, laundry, and gratuities, not having to deal with expense reports at all is pretty nice.
Promotion of cultural exchange
The best Airbnbs are in areas outside the main tourist centers, unlike most hotels, which neighbor expensive shopping, an overwhelming amount of noise and/or electric light (like in Times Square), and other hotels. My Airbnb hosts have always been pleasant, fun people; some, like the couple I stayed with in Budapest, only had time to enjoy a cup of coffee with me in the morning, while others, like the four university students who hosted me in New Orleans, toured me around town.
Even if I stay in an apartment by myself, I like connecting with locals at nearby markets and cafes. The people I met at pubs around Grünberger Straße clued me into some Germany business and cultural practices — advice I’m not sure I would have gotten while sitting next to another foreigner at a hotel bar.
The number one thing I despise about hotels and hostels is the check-in procedure. At 7am, I’m tired from flying five hours on a glorified easy chair, I’m in desperate need of a good shower, the first meeting starts at noon, and I have to lug around my things until my room is “ready” at 3pm? No thanks.
I’ve always been able to arrange an appropriate key-grabbing time with my Airbnb hosts that allows me to rest and recoup shortly after arriving. Checkout is usually a breeze as well, giving me a few hours to take in local attractions, or just chill out, before I depart for home.