Airbnb is considered a godsend by many travelers. The (mostly) affordable alternative to staying in hotels and motels has become widely popular since it launched in 2008. The company, which is headquartered in San Francisco and estimated to be worth nearly 20 billion dollars, has risen to such heights by promising hosts and renters an intimate experience of sharing, learning, and togetherness, and by allowing hosts to earn money through renting available space in their homes. Much of the appeal for travelers hinges on the benefits of having a local host in a new or foreign place who can offer welcoming conversation and guidance on where to shop and eat, and how to get around–a chummier version of a hotel concierge.
This sociologist has enjoyed staying in the homes of others via Airbnb in several countries and states across the U.S., and has found it to be an unbeatable way to travel in terms of social and economic value. But data compiled by Murray Cox, a self-described “digital storyteller” and community activist, disrupts the pleasant veneer that makes Airbnb so appealing to many.