Comparison of the week: Airbnb vs hotels

Stephanie Yip 11 June 2019 NEWS

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Is it better to side with the sharing economy or stick with the tried-and-true experts?

We compare virtually everything at Finder and our Comparison of the Week isn't afraid to tackle the big questions. This week we put hotels and Airbnb to the test.

Accommodation. It's one thing you can't do without when travelling, and with the launch of Airbnb in 2008, your choices for a room to rest your head in has increased dramatically. So which do you opt for – the traditional hotel or the left-of-centre homestay? We compare the two on price, amenities, safety, comfort and more to make your decision easy-peasy.

The essentials

Airbnbs are homestays that let everyday people (hosts) offer up their spare rooms, apartments or houses to rent. Stays can be short or long term, and because you're living in another person's home, it is quite a unique experience.

Hotels on the other hand are traditional establishments wholly dedicated to travellers. They have numerous rooms, employ staff and can have in-house dining options, a pool, spa and tour desk.

The comparison

Let's drill this down further and compare the two, side by side, to see which is better for you.

Airbnb Hotels
Price Airbnb came onto the scene to disrupt the hotel market, and it has done a fairly good job at that. It often comes up cheaper than hotels in a like-for-like scenario. For example, a private room in Woolloomooloo on 13 November costs $102 on Airbnb while a hotel room in the same area costs $175. (Prices obtained 7 June). One reason for this difference is because hosts determine the price and can tweak them to remain competitive. Hotels can range from 1-5 stars in quality, so there's often a wide range of prices to pay, particularly in big cities. They generally come up more expensive than Airbnbs as they need to pay employees such as maids, porters and concierge staff.
Availability As Airbnbs are people's own homes, they won't be available every day of the year. Hosts can choose to make their homes unavailable if they wish to take a break from Airbnb or are having people over. They're also only offering one room or apartment, so it can be booked out quite quickly. Large hotel chains can have hundreds of rooms to suit any party size. This increases your chances of being able to book the place you want for the number of people you're traveling with.
Location While there's a chance you may score that dream stay in the heart of the city, more often than not, a lot of Airbnbs are in suburban areas. This can mean longer journeys to top tourist spots. Hotels are strategically placed around the city's best attractions to increase appeal and to make them desirable. They're a much safer bet that your transport time in the city is shortened.
Safety The idea of staying in a stranger's home may be a little nerve-racking, but Airbnb has laid down procedures to protect both hosts and travellers. As a traveller, you have access to a 24/7 hotline should things go sidewards. Hosts are also rated by guests and you are encouraged to book with higher rated hosts or superhosts. Being a business, hotels need to uphold a high safety standard. You should always be able to contact management for any issues and rooms are key or keycard accessible with automatic locks to maintain your privacy and safety.
Comfort and friendliness What many people love about Airbnbs is how homely and friendly they can be. You get to meet and talk to the locals and that may be something that appeals to you. However, the level of comfort will depend on your host, but more often than not, they want to impress so you'll give them a good rating once you leave. This will change from hotel to hotel depending on the quality of their service and rooms. Smaller, more boutique hotels have a reputation for being friendly with the owners often working behind the desk. Larger hotels may feel cold with no personality.
How global is it? Airbnb is available in 191 countries and growing. It's also banned or has strict restriction in select cities – this includes New York, Barcelona and Paris. Hotels are available in every corner of the world… outside of Antarctica.
What's the check-in, check-out like? After you've booked your stay, you'll be talking directly with your host to organise meeting up to hand over the keys for your upcoming stay. This may be cumbersome as you can't just "pop in" to check in. Instead, you may have to wait for your host to be free to do this. On the flipside, it may work in your favour as it allows for flexibility with arrival times. Across the board, check-in at hotels is around 2pm and check-out is at 10am. Sometimes there's some flexibility around this if they don't need the room immediately for another guest; other times, if you've arrived early and the guest before you hasn't checked out yet, you may be asked to leave your bags and come back later or wait in the lobby for a bit. If you've got a late flight out, you can often check-out and leave your bags with reception to pick up later as well.
Is it family friendly? When booking your Airbnb, there is a filter to choose family-friendly accommodation. For specific needs, you'll have to contact the host. Not all hotels are family friendly, but those that are can have cots available for babies, a babysitting service and a kids' club to keep them entertained.
Is it good for groups? The beauty about Airbnb is that you can rent an entire house for your group. You can sometimes find gems that fit dozens of guests, which you can use for a group trip or even a wedding. Most hotel rooms are suited to a maximum of two or four people. Larger groups will have to split themselves up over numerous rooms which may or may not be next to each other.
What's the food like? Offering food is up to the host. If there's a kitchen, it can come with supplies for you to cook your own meals. Most hotels offer food via room service or a hotel restaurant. Apart-hotels can include kitchenettes for you to cook your own meals; however, these often don't come with any food basics unless they've been left behind by previous travellers.
What amenities does it have? Airbnb hosts aren't obliged to include any bathroom amenities. Their home amenities, such as Wi-Fi, a pool or gym, are determined by what the accommodation already offers. Hotels can have bathroom amenities/kits, a pool, spa, Wi-Fi, gym, sauna and more.
Does it have the "unique" factor? Ultimately, what people love about Airbnb is that personal touch. Homes are unique to host and can be decorated to a theme or be a unique build such as a treehouse or a lush holiday stay like a mansion by the beach. If you're searching for a hotel with a personality, you'll have to home in on boutique hotels. Chains tend to be streamlined, offering you a basic styled room but nothing too quirky or unique.
Accessibility Some Airbnbs may be accessible, others may not. You can filter accessibility needs such as "no steps", "wide hallways" and "disabled parking spots" in your search to be paired up with the right homestay. Larger hotels generally have a dedicated number of accessible-friendly rooms. If in doubt, contact the hotel to ensure you're given a room that suits your needs.

The lowdown

While Airbnbs come out as the cheaper option, they're also more restricted by availability than hotels. If you can't nab that dream home in time, what will likely drive your decision is personal preference and need.

If you'd prefer a more traditional stay, with all the bells and whistles of a turndown service, dining options and amenities in a convenient location, a hotel might appeal most. If a more unique and personalised approach is what you're after, Airbnbs offer a homely setting and the chance to meet and chat to the locals. They're also better for large groups as you can rent out whole homes.

We're all about helping you make better decisions. Do your own comparison by heading to the Finder home page to compare credit cards, savings accounts, shopping deals and much, much more. Go on, be a Finder.

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