Clearly I am biased towards bed & breakfast/inns, especially those (like our Hot Springs, AR bed and breakfast) who have met the strict guidelines and inspection of Select Registry plus regional and local authorities. That’s definitely our preferred lodging when we travel. Yet in 2015 we had the opportunity to stay in two Airbnb apartments, one in the US and one overseas. As a hospitality expert (Innkeeper and Owner) here’s my observations of the major differences between our Airbnb experiences and Select Registry inns:
Airbnb quotes a price per night, and then the guest pays an additional 10% directly to Airbnb. Wide range of prices.
Lookout Point quotes a price per night, and there is no up-charge. Just taxes additionally charged. Wide range of prices.
Airbnb: only after booking does guest discover exactly where the place is located. Communication occurs directly between owner and guest. Generally, guest is on their own to find the apartment and let themselves in. We never met the owner. One provided a list of things to do in area, one did not. One was not familiar with the interior of the apartment when asked a question—he owned multiple apartments and probably had never been in this one. No signage, and challenging to find. Beds OK, with somewhat worn linens. Suggestion: look for an Airbnb property whose owner has only one property, not an owner of multiple properties. More bed & breakfast inns may also be found on Airbnb now.
Lookout Point: Warm welcome, full concierge service before and during stay, written suggestions for local attractions, and attention to the details that make a guest more comfortable. If there is a problem, Innkeepers are present to solve any issue. Lighted sign out front, and an Innkeeper present to answer phone if guests have any trouble finding the inn. Comfortable and luxurious beds, triple-sheeted with fine linens and 4 pillows.
Airbnb: none. One provided a single-cup coffee maker, but no K-cups. The other not even a coffee pot. No regulatory health department inspections.
Lookout Point: Freshly prepared gourmet breakfast using only the best ingredients, and local whenever possible. Accommodates most dietary restrictions. Custom blend coffee, free snack bar, plus afternoon Innkeepers Reception with refreshments, wine & tea included. Refrigerator available for guest use. Plus we make suggestions/recommendations for great local dining. Inspected and meets all Health Department guidelines.
Airbnb: Closets and drawers may be filled with clothes, shoes and personal items. Or there may not be closets/storage space available at all. One place had lots of art and personal objects throughout, the other was stripped to have nothing at all. Not one piece of art or item of interest. No hangers. Bathrooms smaller than a cruise ship’s. No bedside reading lights. Traffic noise.
Lookout Point: Each room is designed for the guest. Spacious closets with luxury robes and laundry bags provided. Original art throughout the inn and each room. Spacious bathrooms, most with whirlpool tubs. Clear surfaces on dressers/tables for guest belongings. Reading lights on both sides of bed, plus alarm clocks and “sleep sound” machines. Quiet and peaceful.
Airbnb: One was quite clean, except for the cloudy fish bowl with the fish dying. (I cleaned it after getting proper instructions from the owner). The 2nd was dirty, and the cleaning person had to come back the next day to properly clean the bathroom. (hair, toothpaste splatters, dirty mirror, etc). No cleaning services during a 7 night stay.
Lookout Point: Supreme attention to details and cleanliness. Each room thoroughly cleaned by a dedicated housekeeper, and then 30 points checked by an Innkeeper prior to every guest arrival. If there is a rare issue, we’ll fix it immediately! Every day the room is freshened, including clean towels as needed, by a staff member.
6. Maintenance and Safety Issues
These issues can honestly turn up any place, it’s how the issue is handled that separates the properties.
Airbnb: One place we really didn’t have any problems except the dying fish, and owner walked me through the steps to properly tend to the fish. The second place there were multiple issues, including the lack of cleanliness mentioned above. In addition, an improperly hung and weighted blackout curtain rod fell off the wall. Three days later a person was sent to fix this—however the neon lights out the window lit up the space brightly at night. When we told the owners there was no hot water for the shower on 2 days, we were charged $40 for a maintenance guy to come take a look! Probably does not have operating fire alarms or fire extinguishers—ours did not.
Lookout Point: Rarely do problems occur, but the owners/Innkeepers will jump through hoops to resolve the problem immediately. All safety issues addressed with proper, secure locks; hard-wired and monitored fire alarms; plus easily accessible fire extinguishers. Innkeeper available 24 hours per day.
Airbnb: probably does not have liability insurance to cover paying guests. Check it out.
Lookout Point: as a legitimate business, proper insurance is held.
8. Compliance with Local Regulations
Airbnb: Unless located in a few specific cities, most Airbnb owners operate “under the radar”, avoiding paying lodging taxes and other sales taxes, and not complying with other regulations such as fire code, health department, building codes, etc. So while paying an upcharge to Airbnb, these properties skip the local regulations that assist in keeping streets paved, support local schools, tourism councils, police and fire departments, etc. that are a direct result of taxes paid.
Lookout Point: Complies with all regulatory agencies, and is inspected by Select Registry, the Arkansas Health Department, the Alcohol and Beverage Commission, and the county Fire Department. Of course, all required taxes are paid to the proper places.
Airbnb: Encourages reviews directly on their site. Guests are encouraged to review the property, and owners are encouraged to review the guest. This allows owners to reject potential guests that have received negative reviews in the past.
Lookout Point: Reviews are posted by guests on various travel sites, but the property is not allowed to review a guest. The result is that bed & breakfast/inns are held to a higher standard, since they are not able to filter guests nor review guests. Review standards on major sites allow only a generic response, if any response is allowed.
10. Professional Affiliations
Airbnb: most, none.
Lookout Point: with the desire to continue learning and be the best Innkeeper possible, affiliations include Select Registry, AIHP (Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals), Arkansas Hospitality Association, and the Arkansas Bed & Breakfast Association. Never stop learning!
In summary, I will continue to travel around the world and enjoy a variety of lodging experiences including amazing inns and interesting Airbnb properties. Over time, as a hospitality expert, I will continue to record observations and comparisons.
Innkeeper of Lookout Point Lakeside Inn