Here at Budget Travel we're big fans of peer-to-peer rentals. We covered Airbnb—the company that connects travelers with individuals looking to rent private homes, apartments, and even boats—back when it launched in 2008 and again this past January. We've also written about peer-to-peer car rentals.
Just last week, however, Techcrunch reported a scandal that rocked the vacation rental world, when one San Francisco homeowner had her apartment ransacked by a guest who booked a stay through Airbnb.
Upon return, the host discovered that the traveler had taken off with her camera, iPod, laptop (including external backup drive), her credit card, and her grandmother's jewelry. She reported the incident to the police, who made an arrest, and blogged about it on her site, ejroundtheworld.blogpost.com.
Since then, CNN reports that Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb has announced a $50,000 guarantee to protect hosts' property, introduced a 24-hour customer support line starting next week, and ramped up its customer support team to 88 employees. Hosts will also be able to set custom "trust" parameters for bookings—individuals who don't meet these requirements won't be able to reserve the apartment. Trust is measured by things such as verified phone numbers, profile descriptions, and location information—learn more on the safety tips for hosts section of the Airbnb website.
The question now is—are these measures enough to restore trust in the service? The odds are certainly favorable—travelers have booked nearly 2 million nights in 190 countries through the online service Airbnb, and horror stories are rare. But, the fact that incidents are rare certainly isn't comforting to those unlucky enough to be the victims of fraud or theft.
So do you think that Airbnb is doing enough to protect consumers? If not, what would you like to see them do?
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