If you’re about to book accommodation for an upcoming holiday, you will probably have more choice than ever before.
In addition to the traditional options of hotels and package-holiday apartments, a new wave of online services are cutting out the middleman to let you stay in other people’s homes.
Websites that advertise vacancies in holiday or second homes are not particularly new. But the difference with what the likes of Airbnb and Onefinestay.com are offering is that you are far more likely to be staying in people’s main place of residence – either while they are out of town, or in a spare room while the owner remains in situ.
These sharing-economy services have become a huge success in a very short period of time. Airbnb, which is the poster child for accommodation sharing, recently announced it now lists more than 1 million rooms in countries all over the world – not bad for a company which didn’t exist until 2008.
So what has been behind Airbnb’s success? One of the most significant factors is the ratings system the site uses: property owners and renters have to sign up in advance and verify their identities via social media profiles and/or personal documents such as passport or driver’s licence.
They are then allowed to rate each other on whether they were a good host or guest – and, of course, visitors can give a view of the accommodation itself as well.
This gives users on both sides the confidence that they are getting a fair deal from a real, responsible person – something that was perhaps lacking in earlier property listing services.
Naturally, Airbnb’s sizeable marketing budget has also helped, as has the fact that the site ensures that listings are keenly priced – so in major cities, for example, rooms and homes can be expected to undercut standard hotel rates.
Onefinestay, which was set up in London in 2010, works on a similar basis to Airbnb but is aimed at wealthier visitors to London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles only at present. Its listings are dominated by impressive, high-end apartments, ideal for travellers looking for a bit of luxury.
Visitors are welcomed by a concierge employed by the firm, and accommodation is much more strictly vetted to ensure it meets Onefinestay’s high standards. If you are looking for a cheap place to crash on a city break, however, this is not for you.
Onefinestay is limited to the four cities mentioned above, and Airbnb tends to be dominated by urban accommodation as well, with many listings for rooms in homes where the owner will also be present.
If you want to get away from it all, a service like HomeAway.co.uk could be more up your street: this lists holiday rentals and second homes around the globe, and here you are more likely to find sea views, pools or rural retreats.Airbnb has talked about moving into this area, and it could be the case in future that it becomes totally dominant in the property rental market.
For now, though, it is worth considering what each of these three sites has to offer when booking your trip.