Which Is Safer: Hotel Or Airbnb?

Business Insider suggests that Airbnb’s are safer in the current climate than hotels, because there are fewer people occupying any given Airbnb than occupy a hotel. I’m not so sure that’s the right answer.

  • Airbnb properties can opt into a new cleaning initiative, and a 24 hour buffer between guests so no one is checking in the same day someone else checks out. They can also opt not to adopt the new cleaning regimen but guarantee no bookings for 72 hours between guests.

  • Of course a host not opting for either of these isn’t going to be nearly as desirable, and you actually have to believe that the cleaning commitments are taking place.

  • Even if property owners go through the training are they always buying the right cleaning materials which can still be harder to get?

Hotels chains have enhanced cleaning protocols, and a brand reputation to protect. They also may be better able to consistently source the best cleaning supplies and develop systems to monitor compliance, since they already do monitor brand standards to begin with while Airbnb lacks the same oversight of individual listings.

However I once walked into a Ritz-Carlton room where the bed was unmade and a used condom was in the sheets. There have been plenty of exposes of chain properties where sheets hadn’t been changed between guests, despite mandated protocols from corporate. Or of housekeeping cleaning glasses in the bathroom with the toilet bowl brush.

Type of accommodation is going to matter. A standalone home via Airbnb is completely different than a unit in a large condo building where you’re sharing public spaces, including elevators

And how much you can trust that cleaning protocols are being followed matters too – you have to make a bet on which to trust more.

While it may be tempting to prefer to stay in deserted hotels (fewer people), I actually think a busy hotel is likely to pay greater attention to cleaning (and to be more likely to receive publicity for its failures, or to be checked up on by corporate to ensure compliance). And it’s easier to see areas that may be neglected in cleaning in new build properties than older hotels or hotels that haven’t been as well maintained.

A private home with contactless check-in may be the ideal, but you still might want to give it a good cleaning yourself when you arrive. That’s not always going to give you the amenities you’re looking for, and may not offer you the proximity to whatever reason you’re traveling in the first place.

Do you trust a hotel chain to monitor what its franchisees do, or the Airbnb owner to follow through? We’ve heard a lot about new protocols that are being followed I want to know more about how those protocols are monitored at the property level and from there to the individual room turn level.

Thats’ also not just about the brand but specific property. Trust matters more than ever before as travel providers of all kinds look for customers to return.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. We are facing the same questions, who do you trust to follow through. I am having a hard time making a choice. The struggling airbnb owner trying to make up for lost bookings or the housecleaner that has x number of rooms to complete in her shift.

  2. IMHO, I would feel it is safer to stay in a single-home airbnb than a hotel. Much less interaction with other (potentially infected) people.

  3. Gary,

    Easy question. Why do you link on your blogroll to Heels First Travel ? They haven’t had anything new posted since 2018. It was pretty useless anyhow but even more so now.

  4. Airbnb is more desirable now due to the simple fact that all the hotel amenities you are paying a premium for will be missing or severely degraded. Why stay at a nice hotel for the free breakfast, lounge HH, pool, gym, and daily cleanings when you get none of that?

  5. HVAC and recirculated air. Plus, around 20% of the population thinks this is all theater and will continue to act like Goobers.

  6. Living in the SF Bay Area and under a SIP since March 16, I’ve only had to travel once for family reasons to San Diego. I stayed in a hotel to avoid entering my family’s home. The hotel was operating at 9% capacity but regardless, I came prepared. I had requested a room that had been vacant for at least 48 hours and it was granted. Upon entering the room – without any of my luggage, I immediately donned gloves (was already wearing my mask) and took out my disinfectant wipes package and spent the next 10 minutes wiping down all touchpoint in the room – light switches, door knobs, closet doors, cabinet drawer handles – bathroom fixtures, kitchen areas, etc – basically anything my hands or fingers may touch. I declined housekeeping for my 5 day stay.
    This is probably something I’ll be doing moving forward wherever I stay – yeah it’s a drag, but then at least I feel comfortable knowing I did all I could do.
    I stayed at a Marriott property.

  7. To believe that hotels (especially chains) will be following protocols that most likely marketing departments came up with is at best naive.

    I do not trust any chain hotel will sacrifice profit in the name of extra cleaning.

    If you are going to get the virus, its from interactions with people – which is far more common and unavoidable at a hotel than your own airbnb

  8. Soon I will have to travel on business for 2 nights to a distant city. Amazing how much pre-planning has to go into this.

    Trying to find a hotel with windows that open so I don’t have to rely upon a/c. Asking at the desk for a room that hasn’t been used in 2 days
    Bringing an isopropyl alcohol to spray on surfaces. Bringing a pack of wipes. Mini-bottle of 99.98% aerosol disinfectant. Gloves. Masks.

    Carry-on will be crammed with non-work related items. This has become a huge hassle. Unfortunately this trip is something which requires an in-person visit.

  9. “However I once walked into a Ritz-Carlton room where the bed was unmade and a used condom was in the sheets”

    You should have added, “Did I mention my child was born only 9 months later.?”

    Well, at least one person would find it funny.

  10. It doesn’t appear that covid spreads much on surfaces.
    But I can attest that a certain number of vacation renters clean a place themselves upon arrival, even if it appears clean. I’m hearing that number has been increasing. So at least in a VR there are cleaning supplies available if a person wants to do so.
    Not to mention VR’s have more space to spread out, you’re not walking through hotel lobbies and waiting in front desk lines, and you have the ability to completely avoid restaurants if desired. Seems safer to me.

  11. I vote for hotels, especially large chains with defined cleaning protocols. I stayed at a Hilton property a little over a week ago and was very comfortable with the experience. IMHO, Airbnb (along with VRBO/Homeaway and other rental sites) may have standard but can’t enforce them like a hotel brand.

    I did wipe down all surface areas when I arrived with a disenfecting cleaner, use hand sanitizer a lot and obviously didn’t have any housekeeping service while I was there. Hilton, and most other chains, have cut out housekeeping so the rooms are cleaned to standard between guests but no one comes in your room while you are there.

    All that being said I’m booking a VRBO beach house for later in June and have no problems with that either. CDC has said risk of getting the virus from surfaces is pretty low and if you practice some level of social distancing you really aren’t at high risk regardless of where you decide to stay.

    Finally – life is to be lived people and you can’t be scared of everything! I take reasonable precautions but will continue to travel and live my life. There is risk in EVERYTHING you do so you can either be afraid of your shadow and curl up in a ball or decide you want to live your life. As for me, I decided to live!

  12. My partner and I are Airbnb Superhosts. One of the reasons we have this rating is that our rooms have been well maintained and well cleaned. We were already using disinfectant wipes on all surfaces that could be touched, spraying beds and pillows before making them up, etc., so the enhanced cleaning protocols are not new for us.

    At present, we are not accepting any bookings. When we open again, we will be only offering one of our three rooms because that room will be reconfigured for contactless checkin. Some of our current amenities will no longer be available because they require personal contact with our guests.

    We are both over 65 and, thus, at risk for COVID-19 complications. We will not expose ourselves to infection and will not provide accommodations that could do so. We are taking a large financial hit, but it doesn’t compare to the human cost of COVID-19.

  13. I think this post gets it wrong, by and large. To get sick from a previously occupied hotel room, you have to have so many things go wrong for you:

    -previous occupant infected
    -relatively recent departure
    -got virus on surfaces
    -you touch surfaces while virus still live
    -then you touch your eyeball/mouth/nose

    The odds of this all happening are not zero, but it’s not the primary or secondary thing one should worry about. Being in an elevator with someone infected… sitting at a hotel breakfast bar near someone infected… having a long check-in with an infected clerk… those are all real concerns. In that sense, I suppose an Airbnb is safer. But a hotel is plenty safe, too, assuming you avoid interaction.

    I guess what I’m saying is that you’re not answering the right questions.

  14. It seems that the more we learn about the coronavirus infection, the more emphasis is placed upon the airborne virus and much less upon contact with virus on surfaces. I am inclined to try to find the old fashioned motel with the front door opening to the outside. In any event, the major hotel chains have their work cut out for them.

  15. When you check into a hotel brand….you ~ kinda know what you are getting beforehand.
    That’s why I do not like mom and pop establishments. When a cook or cleaner doesn’t come to work the owner can always call “Uncle Joe“ to come help out. He or she Is not trained and doesn’t know squat about sanitary cooking or cleaning procedures.
    I also think privately owned lodging has more propensity to have cameras.
    (For safety reasons, of course, Ha!)

  16. Airbnb Surcharges are too high and properties aren’t always worse than they appear in photos. Rarely have this problem with hotels. I’ll take a hotel any day particularly at 10% occupancy. Just bring Clorox wipes for the tv remote and door handles.

  17. I can say from personal experience that the front desk person at the Doubletree in Washington (Meadowlands), PA couldn’t be bothered to wear a mask tonight even though I had one on. No front desk contact risk from people that didn’t get (or couldn’t be bothered to read) the big hotel chain cleanliness memo is suddenly a +1 for Airbnb in my book.

  18. @E C- was coming here to suggest the same thing
    Had to travel to Philly a couple of weeks ago–decided on a Hyatt Place in South Jersey which you had direct entrance to your room/suite from outside-the only time in a lobby was at check-in–I think for the time being my hotel stays will be at those type of properties (Towne Place Suites, Extended Stay America, etc)especially since amenities are next to none in full service hotels anyway

  19. @ Stan – You would think so.
    I stayed at a Residence inn by Marriott in San Bernardino, CA about 2 weeks ago (my parent was in the hospital) and when I checked in the front desk clerk was not wearing a mask (although they did have plexiglass!). She said the County of San Bernardino had – that day – rescinded the mask requirement and now it was optional. You would think that Marriott had a corporate policy on PPE – but no. I was shocked that not one hotel staff person I encountered during my 3 night stay wore a mask or gloves. Housekeeping – No, front desk – no. I wish the big chains such as Marriot Intl (30 brands) and the others would post/publicize their policies so we – the paying customers – can decide where we book going forward. If wearing PPE is a corporate policy – than it should be corporate wide at all brands regardless of a managed or franchised property.

  20. “While it may be tempting to prefer to stay in deserted hotels (fewer people), I actually think a busy hotel is likely to pay greater attention to cleaning.”

    This is a totally moot point, IMHO, because:
    1) as someone has mentioned before, the latest CDC data confirms that the virus is much harder to catch from surfaces than from people (doesn’t mean not possible, though),
    2) A hotel stay means people, elevators, inevitable interactions; means recirculated air; means eating at restaurants (more interactions) unless you order room service 3 times a day.
    3) Vacation rentals means minimum interactions with other people and an option for self-catering. An option I’d personally gladly take.

    I don’t believe in their new cleaning protocols either at hotels or VR. I mean they might have the best of intentions, but it all boils down to the willingness of working crews not to cut corners. Call me paranoid, but I would clean everything on my own upon checking in (again, as some other commenters suggested). Or for a large rental, I would hire a local service to clean and disinfect UPON arrival.

    VR wins hands down IMHO in this new reality.

  21. @WR2

    That’s incorrect. I’ve been at a 5 Star Luxury hotel for over three months now and I still get 2 meals per day, to include breakfast and Executive Lounge access. My room has been cleaned every day without fail. The gym was previously closed but is now open, and when it was closed the hotel provided me with sets of dumbbells that I kept in my room.

  22. All the comments here were interesting too! Excited to join the VFTW community.

    Customers need to decide what’s most important. Zero interaction with humans?
    Daily surface cleaning?
    Reputation at risk for not taking precautions.

  23. I will prefer to choice Airbnb now because The Airbnb have window and balcony as well. Do you find the hotel the window is cannot be opened and no sunshine as well. And even some hotel have no window and the air conditioner is centralise. And also the old dirty carpet , alway in brown or blank color .

  24. Aren’t people forgetting that much of the Airbnb rentals are in apartments (at least in New York, Miami etc)? Same issues regarding elevators, lobbies, pool decks, gyms..
    Can’t compare a hotel room to a private home / villa rental

  25. While I can appreciate the point of view I do question if you’ve ever booked an Airbnb? As SuperHosts with over 215 5 star reviews with cleanliness being at the top of the list, I definitely think Airbnb stats are much safer in these times. We guarantee a minimum of 24 hrs between every guest, we have an excellent cleaning team who not only clean but disinfectant every touch surface including shower curtain and furniture. We’ve always had an extensive cleaning checklist but now have them literally use bleach & water and anti-bacterial spray. Vacuum filters are changed between each guest as well. Given the new CDC information that it’s unlikely to have touch contact exposure but interpersonal contact as the cause, I personally have no problem booking and staying in a private home vs a hotel.

  26. Congrats on your cleaning protocols.
    Sure a private home is allowing more separation but is also more expensive than a hotel room. Airbnb apartments in condos are just hotels with different ownership of each room/ apartment. Distancing within the unit is not the issue, it is elevators, lobbies and other shared amenities. Will the condo association clean as well as a good hotel operator?

  27. @HJB, actually, Our Airbnb’s offer a significant savings over equal quality hotels. Most 5 star hotels are around $250 to $450 per night and beyond. Offering around 200 sq, which generally includes a bed, desk, bathroom. Our units are 1320 sq feet. Over 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, dining area, full kitchen with gas range, ice maker/water dispenser, washer/dryer, granite, work station, free WiFi, parking, and both have PRIVATE access from the courtyard so there is no need to come through the 16 unit building. You also need to consider the number of guests coming through that hotel room. The carpet that will never be fully clean vs our gleaming hardwood floors. Every mattress and pillow encased in waterproof allergy and mite proof covers. You don’t find that in a hotel. They spray the mattress with aerosol chemicals between guests. Certainly a matter of personal preference but I definitely feel that Airbnb’s receive much more frequently deep cleaning and are safer.

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