Airbnb- the good, the bad, the ugly
As a long time user of airbnb I want to feel like I can support this company and the homeowners who choose to participate but the more I travel the world and see the effects it is having on other major cities as well as my hometown the less comfortable I am with using its services. While I enjoy the feeling of being in a city and making it home for a brief moment I am becoming increasingly aware that my footprint isn't the only one that has or will be in that place. Not every neighborhood or neighbor wants a constant flow of tourists on their street or in their building. One could argue that with globalization on the rise this will just be a continuing issue we have to deal with, especially if we live in a place that relies heavily on tourism spending. I am not quite sure what the best solution is and honestly that is not the main reason I am writing this. I travel quite a bit to Barcelona and have taken many opportunities to stay in both hotels and airbnb properties. When I was in BCN last May I started to notice a growing movement AGAINST illegal short-term rentals and even tourism in general. I thought what an unfortunate situation, this city has so many amazing people living in it and they are starting to feel overrun by tourists and the mark they are making on this town, I don't want to be that burden, but I also want to continue to come here and feel welcomed. I came home feeling torn and decided to research what their tourist numbers looked like. The city of Barcelona has a population of nearly 1.6 million residents and saw over 8 million tourists last year. I wanted to compare it to my hometown of New Orleans with a permanent resident population of just over 375,000. To my surprise, my tiny city (by comparison) saw over 9 million tourists last year. We are a quarter of the size and saw approximately 1 million more tourists than Barcelona. Where did they all stay?!?! My guess is after hotels, illegal short-term rentals. I started to wonder how many of my friends and family members were affected by these crowds. After asking around, it seemed to be a split group, depending on what part of the city you are living in you either dealt with a bachelor party every weekend or barely a peep the whole year. Upon my return to Barcelona this past month the movement seemed to have grown stronger and more organized with almost every building posting official signs that basically say, you rent this apartment illegally and I have no place to live. The long story short is that this system isn't working for a lot of residents in cities around the globe. And my point is from here on out, I will choose to do extensive research before traveling and renting an illegal apartment again because while I consider myself to be a fairly respectful and conscientious traveler it does not mean that every one else is nor does it mean that I, along with other renters, am not making it harder and harder for locals to find affordable places to rent. I urge everyone to strongly consider the impact tourism has on major cities and be respectful of its residents, streets, artwork, historic buildings and culture. If we want to be able to continue to travel freely we must respect the concerns of the people in the cities we love so much.