BEIRUT: Airbnb, An online platform that has been offering lodging and tourism services all over the world since 2008, is progressively becoming a preferred option for citizens and tourists in Lebanon.
The story of this exciting online marketplace, which has grown into a 35$ billion business, started out as a simple idea for three penniless college students to pay rent. Designers Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia rented out the spare room of their shared apartment in San Francisco to three travelers who became the very first Airbnb guests.
That same San Francisco apartment became Airbnb’s first operating office, and a little over a decade later, the company now has 34 offices worldwide with almost 4k employees.
When Chesky, Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk first began their hosting website, they named it AirBedandBreakfast.com in reference to the “airbeds” they scrappily provided their three first guests with, and “bed and breakfast,” a service that provides breakfast following an overnight stay. Shortly after, the name was shrunk to Airbnb.
Ever since its launch, half a billion guests have stayed in Airbnb listings. These guests have six million unique homes worldwide to choose from, including shared rooms, castles, tree-houses, houseboats, lofts, tipis, automobiles, and much more, starting from a minimum of 10$ per night.
Through creating a free Airbnb account, millions of hosts and travelers have the ability to advertise their space and book accommodations in over 100k cities in almost 200 countries, one of them being Lebanon.
“I’ve been an Airbnb host for almost four years now,” Hani Hasbini, who rents out two mountain chalets in the Faraya village, told Annahar. “It was always my intention to rent out these properties, and Airbnb gave me a platform to advertise to a wider audience,” he added.
Hasbini explained how in Lebanon, tourists and locals searching for a less formal lodging experience, such as that offered by hotels, are preferring Airbnb accommodations.
“The Airbnb experience is more akin to a host handing you the keys to his/her home,” Hasbini said. “Lots of people feel more comfortable in a home setting than a hotel room. It is a more relaxed and intriguing environment, which tends to be cheaper than hotels,” he added.
Airbnb guests have the option to choose from listings based on their preferred price range, amenities, facilities, property type, neighborhood, house rules, and even the host’s language.
Giving your property’s keys to a complete stranger or staying at a complete stranger’s place may seem strange and perilous to some, but within the Airbnb platform, danger is not a concern.
Airbnb boasts its safe and secure design, both online and offline. In fact, they have an entire “Trust and Safety” section on their website, which explains how and why hosting and lodging at an Airbnb accommodation is completely safe.
Cheez Hospitality, a local hosting ecosystem, has been utilizing accommodation platforms, including Airbnb, to host their guests for the last three years.
“The traveling trend is changing and people are looking for more unique experiences while traveling,” Joseph Kalaydjian, managing partner at Cheez Hospitality, told Annahar.
He added: “Hotels have a bunch of rooms distributed inside a building. However, through staying in accommodations offered by platforms such as Airbnb, guests enjoy a unique vacation at a space with character where they can live like locals.”
Cybele Abou Khalil, who has been an Airbnb host for over a year, explained how the suggestion of staying at an Airbnb in Paris first alarmed her. “I wasn’t comfortable at first with the idea of not having room service and staying at the somebody's apartment,” she told Annahar. “However, I found the experience to be totally different than what I had expected.”
Abou Khalil’s pleasant escapade motivated her to become an Airbnb host herself back home. “When I had the opportunity of owning a house on the coast of Chekka, I immediately planned to post it on Airbnb, both as an investment and a chance to meet new people.”
Hospitality is important for hosts like Abou Khalil. "Usually, hosts include welcome packages for the guest,” Abou Khalil explained. “For example, I offer Lebanese breakfast including Labne, thyme crackers, mom’s homemade Tabboule and souvenirs from Lebanon to the guests,” she added.
She further noted that Lebanese people are known for their hospitality, kindness, and generosity, which is why she believes that being an Airbnb host is a great opportunity to reinforce that positive image of Lebanon.
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