Airbnb strikes fear into hotel owners everywhere

Six letters are striking fear into the hearts of hotel owners everywhere: Airbnb. This clever company is breaking the traditional model of holiday accommodation, especially in the family market.

Their properties are cheaper, bigger, and more like a home than a sterile hotel room.

In a world where we feel increasingly disconnected from our fellow travellers, Airbnb allows us to share. But at what price in the long term? The $10 billion start-up is now booking its Australian profits offshore. And you know what that means - yet another multinational paying less tax here.

Airbnb has sought immunity from corporate rules requiring companies to disclose their earnings in a financial report, according to reports in the Australian Financial Review.

So much for that touchy, feely stuff! Still, families will continue to use the service. Planning a trip to Canberra this year, we couldn't find an affordable hotel room because parliament was sitting. Enter Airbnb: the easy-to-use website displayed dozens of choices, including one self-contained, hacienda-styled apartment.

It was ultra-modern, spacious, and secure, and complete with a Mexican cookbook and spices. All this, for half the price of a hotel. It was the same story in Paris between Christmas and New Year.

After trawling hotel websites, we settled on a two-storey, three-bedroom penthouse on the best shopping strip in the fashionable Marais for less than $2000 for seven nights. The lovely American couple who were renting the place and subletting to us left a bottle of bordeaux, a cake and local cheese.

They had kids of the same age, who allowed Taj and Grace to play with their toys, and a separate bedroom and en suite for my mother-in-law, with a view over Notre Dame. Doesn't get much better than that!

Our experience in Italy was not so successful. The pokey apartment in Florence was seven flights up with no elevator on the busy Autostrada; the flat in Rome was in one of the most dangerous precincts in the city.

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Maree Pike, from Brisbane, had a similar experience in the Eternal City, with a "dodgy bathroom and drug deals happening outside our front door", but found a "big and beautiful property overlooking the water" in Venice.

Inveterate traveller Sallyanne Ryan raves about Airbnb, but recommends checking out guest reviews for a true picture of the property. "Once we stayed in an historic apartment on Hollywood Boulevard, right near the strip. It's saved me hundreds."

Journalist and mother of two Ali Donaldson, from Sydney, was about to book, "the most amazing apartment in NYC when, on the fifth photo, we noticed the view outside window was of the Eiffel Tower". The key is to do your research and check the terms and conditions closely.

"We've used Airbnb to rent out our holiday house in Blackheath and have found it positive," says Nicole Lenoir-Jourdan.

"We've been paid quickly after the stay, the booking process has been very quick and painless, and the guests have left the house in a tidy state, with great reviews on the website".

We're thinking about renting out our home through the site.

Sam McDonagh, from Airbnb, says Australians are among the "most prolific" users, as a percentage of our population.

Like it or loathe it, it seems this new model of accommodation is here to stay.

Where the wild things are

Explore the wilds of Jurassic Park and Lost with your big kids with a new Honolulu package with Fiji Airways. The package includes five nights at the three-star White Sands Hotel, in the thick of Waikiki, and a quad-bike tour through the Ka'a'awa Valley, the backdrop for such movies as Pearl Harbour, Hawaii Five-O and Jurassic Park. Quad-bikers must be at least 16 years old. Costs from $1754 a person, twin share, including flights from Sydney (via Nadi). For sale and travel until March 31. Phone 1300 234 909, SMS 0477 765 003, see directflights.com.au.

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