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Top Travel News of 2011
Travel was a hot topic this year, from the U.S. government allowing Americans to visit Cuba again to Groupon revolutionizing the way vacations are sold. Here are 2011’s most memorable stories.
The "Airbnb Robbery" Highlighted the Risks of Peer-to-Peer Rentals
Travel-site sensation Airbnb broke new records this year, announcing that it had helped travelers rent places to stay (homes, rooms within homes, even boats) from ordinary homeowners more than 1 million times. Quite the achievement. But then the company raced into the public-relations equivalent of a 12-car pileup, when a San Francisco homeowner reported that her place had been trashed by an Airbnb renter.
The company responded by rolling out an automatic $50,000 property guarantee to all hosts. It also introduced more thorough vetting of its site members, such as allowing hosts to screen out potential guests whose phone numbers haven't been verified, among other safety checks. (See "How Is Airbnb Dealing With the Robbery That Rocked the Vacation Rental World?")
Renting from ordinary persons, rather than from companies, is part of a trend called peer-to-peer travel. The risks of such travel—for both renter and rentee—aren't confined to any one website, though. When it comes to free or cheap lodging, users of Crashpadder, Roomorama, Couchsurfing, and other sites are all taking small gambles. Yet given that there's been only one sensational incident reported during a time with more than a million happy rentals and swaps, the odds of enjoying a good experience remain solid. Believing in the essential goodness of humanity remains a winning proposition to travel by.
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