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Where to stay? Hotels vs Airbnb

Choosing the type of accommodation to best suit your needs

As recently as a decade ago, anyone wanting to stay away from home in the UK faced with a simple choice. Stay in a guest house or check in to a hotel. Few alternatives were available. A tent on a campsite, which doesn’t appeal to everyone or suit every occasion; or hire a static caravan for a family holiday, usually at the seaside.

Then came the internet driven concept of couch surfing. Along with this came several websites facilitating this arrangement between strangers. One person had a spare room, another wanted somewhere to stay. It could be a great match. The best known of these got its name from the idea of putting an air mattress on the floor as an alternative to the traditional B&B. Boy, has Airbnb developed since those days! It has now created a whole new hospitality industry of informal places to stay. This is great for travellers.

So, which is better?

Like most things in life, the answer is " depends!".

Airbnb started in 2010 as a platform connecting people who wanted a place to stay with people who had space. Typically a spare room, in their house. The concept of staying in a stranger’s house held great appeal for many. And soon Airbnb’s offering split into two distinct parts. People began offering self-contained living spaces to travellers. These self-contained units are more properly called Furnished Holiday Lets. They now present a new opportunity for travellers to have their own space.

How do Hotels, Airbnbs and Furnished Holiday Lets differ?

Hotels are the incumbent in the travel arena. As an industry, they have had years of experience in delivering a great customer experience. By and large, they fulfil on that promise. There will be a hotel manager on site and staff to ensure your stay goes smoothly and you have everything you need. Run out of shampoo? A call to reception puts that right…

Airbnb hosts are ordinary people with jobs and lives away from serving your wants and needs. They will generally do their best to make sure you have everything you need. Yet, there will not a be 24-hour reception waiting for your call. In a Furnished Holiday Let you will be on your own. Short on an emergency you will be expected to get what you need for yourself.

Most hotels provide on-site catering. This can range from a restaurant to full-time room service. Generally, Airbnb hosts do not cater for you. Furnished Holiday Lets have a kitchen for you to provide for yourself.

When you check into a hotel, you get a room which in most cases is indistinguishable. It will be comfortable but largely uninspiring. On the other hand, Airbnbs and Furnished Holiday Lets are all unique as they reflect the character of their individual owners. If you are looking for something reliable but bland, then a hotel is a good choice. But if you prefer to take more of a chance then the other options may suit you better.

When you stay in an Airbnb with the host, you get a great insight into the local area. It is possible to really feel what the place is like. This an excellent opportunity if you are visiting a place to absorb the culture and history. It is less important on an overnight business trip. Many Furnished Holiday Lets have plenty of local information. The owners are usually eager to share details of local events and places they enjoy.

How do I make a choice?

Ultimately it comes down to personal choice and the reason why you are travelling. If you want 24‑hour room service, to have someone available to call you a taxi and a place on-site to eat, then a hotel is best suited to your needs. However, if you really want to get to know what it’s like to live and work in the area, staying in an Airbnb with the host will get you immersed in like a local. Conversely, if you want independence and a space to yourself, a Furnished Holiday Let is what you could be looking for. Especially for a group of people.

Naturally, within each of these types of accommodation, there is tremendous variation. Furnished Holiday Lets range from one room apartments through to multi-roomed mansions which can cater for a few dozen people. Likewise, an Airbnb host may love cooking and entertaining and provide you with all your meals. Or you may be left on your own nearly all the time. Hotels vary considerably from small, family run operations to huge corporate concerns with everything in between. Services offered range from basic to extremely elaborate. In some cases, a butler is included to pamper your every desire.

Hotel facilities

All types of accommodation have different facilities. Nowhere is this more apparent than with hotels. Many have gymnasiums, saunas and other exotic offerings included. These might seem attractive but consider how likely you are to actually use them. It is quite common to book into a hotel based on the excellent facilities only to leave at the end of the stay having been near any of them.

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