Molly Archer-Zeff questions Airbnb’s sustainability
Central location, great atmosphere, bustling nightlife. These were among the attractive list of offerings an Airbnb in Athens lured me with. What the description perhaps conveniently forgot to include was the ideal location to witness the tensions that were sizzling between the citizens of Athens and Airbnb. The first thing my boyfriend and I did upon arrival to our apartment was to plan an elaborate cover story where we were staying with his Greek relations, rehearsing falsified names and detailed family pasts.
We are becoming conscious about the consequences of our actions on the world around us.
This felt necessary due to a large banner draped less than 5 metres from our apartment door warning us with the message ‘Airbnb supporters go home, here we have class war, you are not welcome’. The same street was lined with snarls of graffiti all reducing to the same message- Airbnb guests were not welcome.
I have used Airbnb multiple times and had never before felt that I had stepped onto a battlefield between the company and the locals. The company provides an unrivalled opportunity to escape to a new location without the burden of heavy hotel fees or the discomfort of spending the night in a dormitory with five strangers.
I for one had not considered the implications of my travel choices before visiting Athens, gleeful at my box-ticking accommodation find at a modest price. However, the trip filled me with a sense of unease; why was the name of the company I had booked with plastered on walls all around me instead of other travel accommodation providers?
A trail of articles and local accounts led me to discover how at the time of the economic crisis in Greece property prices slumped drastically, resulting in moneyed foreign investors scrabbling to purchase cheap properties to rent on Airbnb. The ‘golden visa’ introduced in July 2013 furthering the unmissable opportunity for those who were not Greek citizens to invest in property in Athens, aiding the rise in property prices.
There is little consideration about the destination being travelled to.
As a result of climbing prices, the average rental cost in the centre of Athens has risen by 10.20% in the last year according to Spitagos, a leading Greek Real Estate company. Consequentially, locals have struggled to get onto even the lowest rungs of the property ladder, the average wages in Athens lagging behind the housing prices.
As we were staying in an area in close proximity to the university, students were bearing the heavy burden of this problem, finding it difficult to afford accommodation while they studied. The large level of Airbnb investors in the area aiding the lack of properties and high prices left me less surprised that the vibrant streets of Athens were laced with messages of such despise for the company.
We live in a time where we are becoming increasingly conscious about the consequences of our actions on the world around us. Climate strikes were a significant feature of the last year, forcing companies and individuals alike to recognise the butterfly effect of their choices. However, the consideration of human life and the impact of our choices of travel on communities has slinked away from the spotlight. While the environmental cost of air travel is taking a scolding, there is little consideration about the destination being travelled to.
‘Airbnb supporters go home, here we have class war, you are not welcome’.
My experience in Athens was an appeal to open my eyes to the impact my travel choices have, particularly the companies I choose. Before you book your next holiday perhaps first consider the impact the travel choices you make will have on your destination.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons