Tomorrow evening, the City Commission of Lawrence, Kansas will discuss short term rentals in the city. I have some very strong feelings about the subject and made sure I completed the survey the city sent out several months ago. My perspective is not one of someone who owns a short term rental or who has any plans to have one in the future, but instead, is that of someone who has a great deal of experience using services such as Airbnb when traveling both throughout the United States, and internationally.
My husband and I have been customers of Airbnb since 2013 when our first experience with the service was renting an apartment with my parents in Barcelona, Spain. The apartment was located one block from Sagrada Familia and, from the balcony of the apartment, we had a spectacular view of the cathedral from an angle few tourists would ever have the opportunity to experience. None of us spoke Spanish, but we were able to communicate with our host (who spoke no English) easily through the Airbnb platform. The apartment was across the street from a grocery store and in the same block as many local restaurants. Because we were able to get such a great deal on the apartment through Airbnb, we spent significantly more just being “tourists” in a city we fell in love with.
Since our trip to Barcelona, back in 2013, we have been completely sold on the sharing economy idea of Airbnb. We do not travel anywhere for pleasure without looking for an Airbnb property to stay in. In fact, since 2013, the only time I have stayed in a hotel was when I was traveling for work, and we have even started to shift business travel lodging to Airbnb when possible, because it allows for collaboration between colleagues in an environment that isn’t full of the hustle and bustle of a hotel lobby. We can sit around a dining room table and debrief all the things we learned at a conference, or we can work on presentations while sitting comfortably on a couch in the living room. It’s really a fantastic way to travel with colleagues.
My husband and I have stayed in Airbnb properties all across the US (Seattle, Downtown Kansas City (twice), Austin (twice), Denver, Washington, DC, the North Shore of Oahu, and Boston) and internationally in London (twice), Vancouver (in the same apartment on three separate trips), and Barcelona. We feel like utilizing available short term rentals allows us to experience cities like locals do. We eat at more neighborhood restaurants, shop at more locally-owned stores, spend more money, and really get to know each city we visit. Because we’re able to experience the true nature of each city, we find ourselves much more connected to each place and much more likely to return for another trip. Additionally, booking through services such as Airbnb has allowed us to stay in areas that are much closer to city centers and in much more popular areas for far less than we would have had to pay to stay in a hotel. I can say, without a doubt, that we have been able to travel more and visit more destinations because we are booking with Airbnb rather than with a hotel. Hotels in many of the destinations we have visited would have made the trip cost-prohibitive.
Lawrence is a city that’s primed to make people fall in love with it. I’ve lived here my whole life and my love for this city is contagious. Whenever I have friends coming into town, or even old high school friends coming home to visit for a holiday, I feel compelled to tell them about all of my favorite places in Lawrence and about all the new places that I’ve recently had the opportunity to love. In my experience, Airbnb hosts are some of the very best ambassadors of the cities in which they have property. They want the experience of their guests to be as positive as possible. They want those guests to come back. They want people to love place they call home as much as they do.
I understand the purpose of regulating short term rentals, but I’ve encouraged our City Commission to do it in a way that will not suffocate their existence in Lawrence. By keeping them around, we’re encouraging people who love the sharing economy to add Lawrence to their list of desired destinations. I’m certain people staying in these properties are spending more money in town than those who are staying at a hotel. My husband and I are those people in other communities and we wouldn’t want it any other way.