The Age of Possibilities

Story By
D Metta

keep calm and travel on

Holiday! Our most favorite word in the world. When it comes to planning a vacation for our holiday, deciding on which destination to choose among myriads of options is only the tip of the iceberg. Even if you have decided on one, the next task on the list is no less daunting: sifting through the seemingly never-ending list of hotels available. Living at a time when information is available at our fingertips with merely a few taps and clicks, the iceberg is not only gigantic, but also a hundred times more confusing.

Lucky for us, the Internet has once again come to the rescue. Helpful third-party websites deck themselves with pictures, reviews, and price deals of any hotel of your choice. There are even a few that boast an extensive price comparison and the ability to find the least or the most expensive offerdepending on your search preference. There are also companies, in the line of Uber and Gojek, that act as a facilitator for smaller-scale businesses that come up with more reasonable price tags and offer a unique kind of experience.

Examples from the last group are websites such as Airbnb, Roomorama, Homeaway, Windu, to Unique Home Stays. The wealth of options offered in these sites is astounding to the point of headache-inducing, simply because there are so many to choose. Legality aside, there is no doubt that these sort of business scheme opens a slew of opportunities on both ends. Proprietors who have no idea how to promote their business, as well as prospective customers in search of accommodations to suit their tastes and needs, can benefit greatly from such system.

Anyone with a property, or even a room or two to spare, can simply upload a few pictures, add a simple description, and attach the desired price tag on top, all with very little to no cost spent on advertising. From an extra guest room in your home, no matter how small, to a large property that can accommodate the entire clan. Users can find nearly anything to fit their demand, often at a surprisingly low price.

Another factor which may encourage more and more people to prefer this type of accommodation is the diversity of choice and the chance to interact with local people. As they are individually owned, these places usually have plenty of personality, and therefore look a lot less 'clinical' than regular hotel rooms that, let’s face it, are mostly carbon copies of other hotel rooms across the world. The presence of a host who is usually able to give us pointers on what to do or where to eat, or even provide tidbits of information on local habits, is something that's also hard to beat.

Despite all the obvious, this kind of service is not without its downsides. For one, the legal standing of such arrangements is questionable at best. One of the reasons for the low price is because there is no tax involved. But on the other hand, it isn’t exactly illegal either; mostly because no law regarding this relatively new type of business exists so far—a situation which may change in the near future.

The absence of proper regulations also leads to a largely gray area when it comes to legal matters. I once stumbled upon a news article about a family who used a similar type of service in the USA to rent a vacation home. An accident occurred when the grandfather sat on a swing which hanging from a tree in the property, which fell and killed the old man. In such cases, due to the lack of any legal umbrella protecting either side, the owner of the property cannot be held responsible for the accident—and neither, for that matter, can the facilitator.

Another disadvantage is perhaps the lack of a standard which we are used to expect from hospitality businesses. In a regular hotel, we always know what to expect. This, however, is not true for the kind of private deals described above. Degrees of hygiene may vary, as well as the condition of the place, and if service is included, the quality may also fluctuate from day to day. When one looks for quality and excellence, a proper, well-credentialed hotel is ultimately the safer choice.

Last but not least, there are likely many among us whose wish for a holiday are simply peace, rest and relaxation with extra pampering on the side. A quiet holiday, instead of one saddled with social interactions, be it with fellow guests or well-meaning hosts. Simply put, some of us prefer to be left alone. The complete privacy and anonymity offered by a hotel room, in this case, will fit such purpose much better.

In the end, the criteria of a perfect accommodation depend entirely on our needs and preferences. Then, perhaps the true advantage of traveling at this time and age is neither the price tag nor the quality. It’s the number of possibilities available at our disposal, along with the satisfaction to tell ourselves: yes, we can choose.