People are using Airbnb’s accommodation services for hooking up and Airbnb is fine with that — unless it gets creepy and dangerous.
The San Francisco-based company runs a website that allows users to list their homes for travellers to rent for short vacation stays. Airbnb, which keeps 3% commission from transactions between hosts and guests, operates based on a user review system.
Customers oftentimes rent out a space entirely without the host present but sometimes book a room in a home where the owner will still be staying during their visit. A handful of Airbnb customers have revealed that they have slept with their hosts on one or more occasions while staying with Airbnb.
According to Business Insider, a 25-year-old Airbnb host named Stuart admitted to having sexual encounters with a 36-year-old Brazilian woman who booked his place in July.
Stuart, an architect living in London, told the publication:
“I asked if she would want to come to my bedroom. She did, and we had amazing sex. Mind-blowing. She tiptoed back up to the other bedroom during the night and nobody noticed. This then continued every night for the rest of the week, and we slept together every night.”
In another instance, a woman named Mary revealed she had a “one-night-stand” with her host last year in England. Mary recalled:
“It happened last easter. Me and two of my friends decided to spend the weekend on the coast to practice surfing. I was in charge of booking the place for us. I was not expecting our host to be a serious silver fox: a proper surfer dude in his early 40s, no kid, no wife, full of good vibes.
… We came back home later in the night and shared a bottle of wine in his flat. Then he kissed me and we went to his bedroom to spend the rest of the night. We left the morning after. We kept in touch only for a very short time after that… It was totally unexpected, but fun.”
While such stories reveal these encounters to be carefree and consensual, others are inappropriate and creepy. In December of last year, a 34-year-old man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for raping two American women who booked his Barcelona apartment through Airbnb.
In another case, an Italian Airbnb user who lives in London, Susy Anese, said she had to run away from her Airbnb host:
“The guy got weird from the beginning, as he had already rented out the room so he offered me his room and slept on the sofa. He kept trying to hug and kiss me and saying he didn’t want me to leave. He lie down with me Saturday night while I was trying to sleep. I got seriously afraid but I didn’t want to say anything as I was scared about his reaction. The worst was on Sunday morning when I woke up and he was staring at me.
“As soon as he left, I packed and ran away. I contacted Airbnb, and at the end they said it was my word against his so they couldn’t do anything except send me a coupon as a refund for the last night I didn’t spend there. I had to send a couple of emails to get it.”
Since Business Insider’s coverage of Anese’s story, Airbnb has issued her a full refund and released a statement regarding the issue that stated:
“Our initial response to this inquiry was unacceptable. We’ve apologized to this guest, issued a refund when this matter was first reported, and are providing them with our full support. We have also suspended this host while we investigate further.”
Trust and safety are concerns that Airbnb takes very seriously, according to Sofia Gkiousou, the public-policy manager at Airbnb, at a London tech event last month. Gkiousou explained that Airbnb listens to the feedback from the community in order to improve the quality of their services and products. She said:
“We’re trying to ensure that people feel safe in sharing their space, but guests also feel safe in going to that space. The level of engagement those two people want to have is obviously up to them.”