Airbnb Is Having a Media Moment

OuiShare Summit 2012
Flickr/Natalie Ortiz

Airbnb has been around for more than five years, but this week the media has been booking stories left and right about the “trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world.”

Monday, the New York Times looked at the legality of Airbnb in New York City. The article’s title, “The Airbnb Economy in New York: Lucrative but Often Illegal,” neatly sums up the situation (as good headers often do): many New Yorkers are earning needed income from Airbnb, but in doing so are depriving the state of needed tax revenue.BlackBook Magazine’s Harom Lea, who “loves all that is Airbnb,” nevertheless shares a few horror stories: like that of two women in Stockholm whose renters turned their home into a pop-up brothel.

If you can get past the possibility of your bathroom being converted into a meth lab though (another true story), there’s money to be made,as the business press points out.

Forbes’s delves into how owners of a second home can use Airbnb to profit from it. Likewise, in “Secrets of Running a Six-Figure Airbnb,” Fast Company explains how homeowners can earn extra income by putting up travelers.

Executive summary: to make money from Airbnb, it helps to own multiple properties.

Used Airbnb to either rent your home or book a room? Share your experience in the comments.

Ryanair Officially Tries to Be Nicer

airplane on runway and looking...
Shutterstock / Peshkova

In this day and age of social media, it’s getting harder and harder for airlines to get away with bad behavior. Lose someone’s luggage? You’ll hear about it within minutes of them landing. Serve a bad meal? Expect that to go viral on Instagram. If your customer service isn’t spot-on, you’ll be sure to hear about it.

But one airline has consistently refused to bow to customer requests. Ryanair is known for the kind of service that elicits complaints. In fact there are entire websites dedicated to documenting how much people are frustrated with what happens aboard Ryanair planes. But despite complaints, Ryanair has managed to find its way to the top of Europe’s airlines. Those baggage fees may seem ridiculous, but the airline is profitable for a reason.

Now with the European economy going downhill however, CEO Michael O’Leary knows that the airline can’t risk to lose passengers, and he is working on making the airline, well, nicer.The man known for proposals like onboard pay toilets (you’re only flying for two hours, you should be able to hold it) is now suggesting that his airline has to transform its brand; just offering crazy low fares isn’t enough.

On the heels of last month’s news that the airline forced a man to pay nearly $260 when he had to change his flight from Dublin to Birmingham because his entire family had died in a fire, Ryanair is now turning on the charm. According to The New York Times, that includes reducing oversized baggage and boarding card reissue fees as well as allowing a small carry-on no larger than 35 x 20 x 20 centimeters to be carried aboard flights from Dec. 1 onwards. Oh, and there will be “quiet” flights, meaning that people flying before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. will avoid the loud in-flight announcements.

It’s all in the hopes that people keep choosing Ryanair wherever they fly in Europe.
“As some of these policy changes will require website changes and handling staff retraining, we will be rolling them out over the next few months as we strive to further improve Europe’s number one customer service airline,” customer service director Caroline Green said.

Will it work? Only the travel social media sphere will be able to tell us.

Television Program On Wood Ignites Passion In Norwegians

wood pileIf you’re going to visit Norway, we’d suggest you do some reading before you arrive. And no, we’re not suggesting that you buy a phrasebook or learn how to navigate the local public transportation systems – we suggest that you seek some knowledge about a topic apparently of great interest to the population: wood.

This article in the New York Times today shows the country’s unprecedented reaction to a new television program about wood. Approximately 20 percent of the country’s population tuned in to some part of the show, which aired on a Friday night in prime time and featured four hours of programming and eight hours of a live fireplace shot. The article states that just over 20 percent of the population, a total of 1.2 million people, use wood for their home heating or stoves.

We in America might relate to the latter portion of the program – the Yule Log channel is often part of our holiday repertoire, along with classics like “Miracle on 34th Street.”

But we’re talking about 12 hours of a show on WOOD here, people.

What do you think? Would you attempt to have a conversation with a Norwegian about his or her love of wood on your next visit, or would you stick to something a bit safer, like the weather?

[Image Credit: Flickr user Rubber Dragon]

Video: New York City subway tap dancer

If you find yourself on the New York City subway on any given weekend, you may be treated to the dance styling of a young tap dancer trying to support himself through college. Joshua Johnson is a junior at Penn State University and a native New Yorker who travels home twice a month to tap dance on the subway and earn extra cash through donations of subway riders. Joshua primarily taps on the 2, 3 and Q trains and calls his performance “The Tap Express.”

While performing and soliciting donations on the subway is illegal without permission from the MTA, chances are you’ve seen some kind of performer on the train if you’ve ridden enough times. In my 12-plus years in New York, I’ve seen (and even participated in) a few acts including magicians, break dancers, comedians, steel drummers, Doo Wop singers and plenty of just-plain-crazies, often the most entertaining performers of all.

Video produced by the New York Times.

Blogger Jessica Marati

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Jessica Marati…

Where was your photo taken: This photo was taken on my family’s beach in the southern part of Guam, the tiny Pacific island territory where I grew up. It’s probably one of my favorite places on the face of the earth.

Where do you live now: I’m based in New York, but I’ve spent the last several months living in Phnom Penh, where I’ve been researching and writing about ethical fashion, sustainability, and travel.

Scariest airline flown: Laos Airlines, on a particularly memorable flight from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. I had been warned that their track record was less than perfect, so I was hyper-sensitive to every unfamiliar whirr and pressure dip. The landing was bumpy, but thankfully I’m still here.

Favorite city/country/place: Are four-way ties allowed? New York, Paris, Bali, and the aforementioned beach.

Most remote corner of the globe visited: Probably Carp Island, a private island in the Palau archipelago in Micronesia. One night, we were sitting on the dock when the sea started lighting up in brilliant blues and greens — my first encounter with bioluminescent plankton. All seven people staying on the island came out to watch. Combined with a star-filled sky, it was pure magic. Tierra del Fuego was pretty quiet too.

Favorite guidebook series: These days, I’m really digging my iPod Touch and the variety of travel tools available in the iTunes App store. Triposo offers free interactive city guides, World Nomads has great phrasebooks, and nothing beats TripAdvisor for the latest hotel and restaurant reviews. I also like to save travel articles, like the New York Times 36 Hours series, to my Instapaper for later reading. It’s allowed me to ditch the massive Lonely Planet budget guides I used to haul around.

Solo or group traveler? A little bit of both. I love taking trips to visit friends living abroad, because I get to experience the place with more context and better restaurant recommendations.

Favorite means of transportation: Hopping on the backs of motorbikes here in Cambodia used to terrify me, but now I’ve become quite used to it. Nothing beats weaving through oncoming traffic with the wind blowing through your hair.

Favorite foreign dish? Restaurant? My Roman grandmother makes the absolute best parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmesan). Beats any restaurant in Italy, or anywhere else for that matter.

Dream travel destination: Havana, Cuba. I think this might be the year!