Pondering the Ethics of Airbnb

Join me in this clip as I recall sleeping in a B&B in Salema, Portugal — back when life was “all sardines and sun,” and fishermen’s families doubled their income by renting rooms to travelers.

These days, websites like Airbnb have revolutionized the travel industry. Many love this service, but others believe it’s unethical. In some cities, the demand for rooms from tourists has driven up rents, forcing some of the original residents to move to less charming but more affordable neighborhoods — and changing the character of the community. You can see this in Rome (around Piazza Navona), in Amsterdam (the Jordaan district), in Barcelona (the Ramblas isn’t what it used to be) — and in many other once-vibrant and charming neighborhoods that now are just plain touristy. Many locals blame Airbnb. What are your thoughts?

(BTW, the clip at the end of this video is from a 2001 episode of Rick Steves’ Europe…but it seems like it’s from a different age. Back then, tourists visiting Portuguese towns were ambushed by women offering cheap rooms — a practice that frustrated conventional hotels. Now, those women are gone, but hotels have something much more threatening to worry about: online room-sharing services.)