Travel lodging world-wide is being shaken-up by the latest trend in the sharing economy: people renting out rooms, annexes, or even an entire residential property to others using online marketplaces designed to facilitate this.
The approach is favored by travelers who now have more choice about the types of accommodation available to them, and it’s alluring to hosts as they see a means of generating an income from unused spaces in their private home.
Conceptually, ‘shared accommodation’ services are offered to guests as a lifestyle proposition: instead of staying at a commercial hotel, you can stay and ‘live like a local’—being welcomed and looked after personally by someone who lives in and knows the area you’re visiting.
Advantages of using shared accommodations
Shared accommodation lodgings offer a range of distinct features, which include:
Experiences instead of packages: The travel market world-wide is changing. Contemporary travelers are increasingly choosing ‘experiences’ over ‘travel packages’ and with Mexico being one of the world’s top tourist destinations, it’s no wonder that services like AirBnB and HomeStay are blossoming here.
Some shared spaces are self-contained: Some hosts offer annexes or bungalows for rent, which provides a self-contained accommodation space inside a larger private property. This can be useful for people who want to stay in a private home while enjoying some additional privacy and autonomy.
Pet-friendly: Private residences tend to be more pet-friendly than commercial hotels, so if you’re having trouble finding pet-friendly accommodations for your travels in Mexico, the shared accommodation option might provide a solution for you.
Local knowledge: The best local hosts offer a dedicated space in their home for guests, ideally with a private bathroom. (Some places only offer shared bathroom facilities.) Some hosts provide a ‘welcome pack’ containing local knowledge and advice about things to see with recommendations of decent cafés, restaurants and bars to be found nearby. Hosts might be on-hand to answer any questions and provide local knowledge and advice.
Guest vetting and reviews: Guests are vetted by the intermediary and a comprehensive reviews system enables the ‘community’ to regulate itself: guests rate the hosts and accommodations, and hosts rate the guests.
Scouting for places to live or retire: Staying at someone’s private home might offer opportunities to connect with local people more easily than when you’re staying at a hotel. This way of arranging your accommodations can be ideal when you’re scouting local areas as potential places to live or retire to in Mexico and want to get a genuine feel for the area.
Increase in peak-period supply: Hotel rooms in certain areas tend to get fully-booked during peak-holiday periods like Christmas, New Year and Easter, as well as during popular local festivities and events. The shared accommodations market has helped to provide an elastic and dynamic supply system that can flex during peak demand periods. Some hosts in popular places purposely provide additional room space to earn more income during festival times —good examples are Pátzcuaro and Oaxaca during Day of the Dead, and Aguascalientes during the San Marcos National Fair— although note that rates will be set commensurate with local demand, so don’t expect any bargains.
Business trips: If you’re traveling on business, renting a room in a private home can provide an alternative to a hotel (which might be less expensive) and could be useful if local hotel-rooms are sold out, e.g. due to a large convention taking place.
Rent an entire home: Some hosts offer an entire home or villa for rent via these online marketplaces. This can be useful if you’re traveling in a group or you need enough space for your (extended) family to occupy with the additional benefit of not having to share with strangers. Hosts either welcome guests personally before leaving the home to them, hire a local person to meet-and-greet the guests, or provide electronic code access for self-service entry.
Disadvantages of using shared accommodations
While shared accommodations have their benefits and are popular with certain kinds of travelers, they do carry drawbacks, which include:
It’s different to a hotel: While sharing private home spaces may be attractive in some circumstances, commercial hotels offer accommodation spaces and services that shared accommodations in private homes don’t—for example, in-room food service, a full-service concierge (if only to leave baggage after check-out), daily room cleaning, on-site bars and restaurants, etc. Business trips may require you to offer a professional space to meet with and present proposals to potential new clients. Sometimes, the natural anonymity afforded by a hotel environment and integrated amenities provided by a hotel or beach resort provides convenience and comfort that shared spaces, even those which are self-contained on a private property, cannot.
Inconsistent descriptions and service levels: While many hosts run their shared accommodation services professionally and diligently, some take a more laid-back approach to the entire arrangement. While reviews can, in theory, weed-out consistently poor hosts, they cannot account for the fact that you are buying a service from a private individual and therefore subject to a private individual’s personal character and circumstances, some of which may be beyond the individual’s control.
Might not be as inexpensive as you thought: While privately-rented accommodations can be less expensive than a local hotel, they might not be. Hosts are savvy and have access to the same price information that guests do. They know when conventions and expos are in town, they know that certain events, fairs, festivals and holiday dates drive local demand for accommodations and adjust their rates (upwards) accordingly. Headline rates advertised on these marketplaces usually exclude cleaning fees, service charges, and taxes: you need to click-through to the booking review page to see the actual price on offer.
Reviews: The companies managing online marketplaces invest a lot of time and effort to make their review systems as helpful as possible; however, they are not infallible and, in some cases, might not even be a fair representation—especially if there are not many to go by. (The first few are usually left by friends known to the host.) In that sense, more is better and it’s no surprise that hosts with a higher number of good reviews always get more bookings.
The shared space rental market is booming in Mexico: hundreds of new listings for rental rooms, homes and villas are appearing every week—and there is no sign of a slow-down as the concept gains traction in the popular psyche of both travelers and hosts seeking to realize the benefits these markets promise.
As a consequence, these online marketplaces which combine technology with the willingness of travelers and hosts to share private accommodation spaces have significantly extended the choice and variety of places to stay in Mexico.
Plan to rent space in your Mexican home?
If you have a home in Mexico and want to rent out some space to earn an income, read the related article about renting spaces in your private home. It explains what’s happening in the market here and key considerations to take into account as a homeowner renting space using online booking platforms.
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