The Truth about Airbnb

김민, 박근후, 나승민l승인2019.10.08l수정2019.10.08 21:07l373호 1면

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  As of March 2015, more than 34,000 cities in 190 countries around the world provided an average of 1 million empty rooms per day to travelers through the service, Airbnb. There are approximately 6,000 rooms registered in Korea. However, Airbnb, which is used by people all over the world, is now under scrutiny after repeated complaints of hidden cameras, sexual violence and illegal business processes.

▲ There are many dangers in applying for Airbnb. (Photo from torklaw.com)

  Airbnb is an online community platform that allows people to share their accommodation with travelers from around the world. It is easy to access through a mobile phone or a computer. Residents who want to travel can lend their home to other travelers, making it possible to book empty accommodations at a much cheaper price than commercial hotels. There are several reasons why Airbnb gained popularity globally. First of all, it is cheaper than staying in a hotel, especially in large cities. Travelers can find accommodation that is much cheaper than similar hotel rooms. There are also all kinds of accommodations available including single rooms, apartments, houseboats, and entire homes. For travelers on a budget or those travelling in large groups, Airbnb can not only help you save money, but also offers a wider selection of accommodation options. Moreover, guests can search the Airbnb database for suitable prices, accommodation types, facilities, amenities, host languages as well as locations. They can also add keywords to narrow the search range. This customizable search service helps people find the best solution for their travel needs.

  However, despite these advantages, many users cannot shake their anxieties because the information on Airbnb is limited to the owner of the house, the safety of the environment and any problems that have occurred at the property. In fact, there have been enough problems with Airbnb sites to shatter user confidence in booking with the service. The first problem was illegal short-term rentals. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the New York City government raided the 46-story luxury condo Atelier, located at 635 W 42nd street near Manhattan’s Times Square, issuing 27 tickets to 20 apartment owners for illegally operating hotels under the Airbnb site. They offered short-term rentals between $400 and $4,000 a night to tourists from 15 countries, including Argentina and Spain and illegally converted their accommodations to earn money from the use of the property. The second problem raised by Airbnb users was the use of hidden cameras in lodgings and sexual assaults. A traveler who visited Fukuoka and stayed in an Airbnb accommodation claimed the fire alarm was installed in an ambiguous location and when a green light came on, they discovered it was in fact, a hidden camera. In another Airbnb case in Fukuoka, four women were reportedly sexually assaulted by the homeowner. Finally, users have lost confidence in the service because of reported personal information leakages. In some cases, people were caught using the credit information registered by their customers. Because the user’s password to the site gets changed, it was not easy for victims to make inquiries into the disputed transactions.

  Consumer counseling on overseas accommodation sites increased more than six times in two year to 2,912 last year. In response, the government is considering presenting guidelines to companies to prevent further damage to the consumer, but it is concerned about its effectiveness as any guidelines they introduce, will not subject to domestic laws.

  The Dankook Herald interviewed Airbnb to learn more about their solutions to these incidents. The company reconfirmed its commitment to the safety of users by performing a check on any host who signs up for the website and requests a registration for their accommodation. They only recruit hosts that pass their scrutiny. During the recruiting process, they use special predictions and their own AI technology to find and analyze any suspicious elements. Also, they regularly hold workshops to inform their guests on proper measures to take to ensure a safe and hassle free trip. Despite these efforts, if illegal activities are reported, the account will be banned if any warnings are ignored. In addition, Airbnb's safety team penalizes and reports crimes to the police to assist with punishment. Airbnb also highlighted that the company offers financial rewards for customers who report illegal activities. If clients experience physical or mental damage, they can notify the Airbnb safety team who will take charge of rectifying the matter. The company assured us that they were making efforts to deal with all illegal cases and protect customers. Finally, in order to prevent fraudulent use of your financial information the company urged users to pay through the Airbnb official website or application. If people choose another method to pay, the company will have a harder time issuing any refunds that might be required.

  Since Airbnb is a booking agent system used by people around the world, ensuring the safety and personal information of customers should be strictly enforced. As incidents inevitably occur, guests of Airbnb continue to hope that their ability to cope with the situation and security will be enhanced making it a more reliable system for safe travels.

▲ Airbnb is being misused for the crime. (Photo from pixabay)

김민, 박근후, 나승민  dankookherald@gmail.com
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