SILVER SPRING, MD. – As the hotel industry wakes up to the fact that Airbnb and other short-term lodging rentals have caught on with consumers and the hotel association begins to mount a lobbying battle, I’ve been wondering who is fueling Airbnb’s bookings. Turns out, I had to look no further than my dinner table.

During our Mother’s Day dinner yesterday, my little cousin told me she’d booked Airbnb for her summer European trip, so I asked her to give us some insights into her thought process.

First off, I’m very proud of my cousin, Mary Veroxie, 26. She’s traveled more than any other member of our family for pleasure. She first went abroad during college, spending a semester in Austria. She’s also been to Laos, Thailand, Mexico and all over the USA. An elementary school teacher, she’s someone who saves up her money to fly somewhere for fun and/or culture at least twice a year.

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Typically, she stays in hotels when she travels. She and her traveling buddies are “veteran” TripAdvisor users. But when she and her friends go to Europe this summer, they’re trying something totally new – Airbnb. One of the people in her group has had success using it, and given the rates, she’s willing to give it a try.

They’re building the trip around visits with friends in London and Prague, where they will stay with friends. But in between – three-day stops in Paris, Venice and Berlin – they’re booking lodging via Airbnb.

“We looked on Airbnb on Friday,” she told me Sunday night. “There are a ton of filters you can put in. We needed two bedrooms. We wanted an entire apartment since we didn’t want to share (a residence). We needed Wi-Fi. The host had to speak English. And the guy in our group insisted on air conditioning.

So then we pulled up the options on a map. You could see pins showing where they’re located. We looked at apartments near train stops or metro stations to make sure we were near one. You have to really look. One place said Venice, for instance, but it really wasn’t Venice. It was a 40-minute drive from the heart of Venice,” she said.

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Why Airbnb?

She’s always had positive hotel experiences, so I asked her why try something new.

“It’s easier. Cheaper. We didn’t want expensive hotels,” she said.

She had never stayed in hostels like I had when I traveled Europe as a backpacker many moons ago, so I wondered if she and her friends had considered them for this trip.

“No. I just heard bad stories about them, and on Airbnb, the people are rated. They have a profile and you see their picture. Prior guests rate them. Also, our friend has used Airbnb and hasn’t had any issues.”

Having a guy in the group makes a big difference in terms of feeling secure about staying in someone’s apartment, where you don’t know who has a key, she acknowledged. “Hopefully, we’ll be OK,” she said.

“If we never knew about Airbnb, we probably would have booked cheap hotels, or gotten a AAA discount,” she said.

I’ll check back in with my cousin after they return from their trip to see whether Airbnb has yet another convert.

Readers: Have you tried Airbnb or one of its competitors yet? If not, do you plan to? If so, tell us about your experience!


Photos of Mary Veroxie taken in Thailand.