Hong Kong Airbnb: what you need to know about it
The sharing economy in Hong Kong is growing rapidly, particularly in the short term accommodation realm.
Airbnb, one of the leaders in sharing economy, dominates Hong Kong with thousands of listings and its well-known brand.
There are even “copycats” now, with added related service industries such as key and guest handling for short term rental properties.
Despite the fact that most Airbnb or other short term listings on websites do not offer necessarily cheaper, or superior, accommodation to hotels, growth continues unabated.
Sharing economy still unregulated in Asia
Virtually all Hong Kong Airbnb listings are contravening domestic law. This is because the law in Hong Kong – and in fact much of Asia – has simply not kept pace with the sharing economy.
For all its reputation as a superbly business-friendly financial center, many of Hong Kong’s legal rules and codes come from a different era. It comes as no surprise that much of the sharing economy is still illegal.
Any accommodation provided for a stay of less than 30 days comes under the guest house law which includes numerous stipulations, ranging from fire regulations to food preparation.
Nevertheless, the authorities, for the most part, appear to be leaving the Hong Kong sharing economy, including Airbnb, to its own devices.
Only if other tenants in the building complain about noise from an Airbnb letting, or the frequent comings-and-goings of the leased apartment, does someone turn up to check what is going on. The vast majority of guests using Airbnb are able to check-in and stay without any difficulty or problems.
For the Hong Kong government, there is little incentive to approach private property owners to stop them operating a letting on the website.
The recent influx of tourists from mainland China has led to a genuine shortage of reasonably priced hotels in Hong Kong. And the number of travelers is only expected to increase.
Airbnb supplements the shortfall. Eventually, there may be a move to regulate Airbnb, but for those individuals simply ‘sharing’ their place when they are not living there, it is to be hoped that tax will not be levied.
Most individuals are providing a customized, small-scale but needed service, and one with excellent environmental credentials. For professional rental companies, on the other hand, conducting their business via the Hong Kong Airbnb platform will almost certainly require a tax bill to be paid at some point.
As mentioned, Airbnb’s prices are not always cheaper than a hotel room. But it tends to be bigger, and come with more facilities than the average hotel room. It also comes with an added comfort, for families, couples, and groups of friends, of being able to stay together in a ‘home’ rather than just a room.
Just being able to open a window (impossible with most Hong Kong hotels) is great! It is by its very nature a much more ‘local’ experience.
The downside of Airbnb
Airbnb will not be able to provide immediate assistance – There is of course the ‘safety’ issue. While Airbnb ensures you give your credit card details, and various ‘checks’ are made, Airbnb is ultimately no more than a platform. If a problem arises, an accident, or some terrible event, do not expect the ‘platform’ to give you immediate assistance. For safety reasons, it is always better to book the entire home (rather than share with the owner), especially when travelling alone.
What you see is not always what you get – Occasionally, facilities on offer can be surprisingly poor. Complaints include broken, chipped, or too few plates/bowls, broken or little cutlery, blocked sinks, blocked toilets, not enough towels and sheets, poor or slow WiFi, dirty or broken air-conditioners, etc. Hong Kong is notorious for poor maintenance of apartments, and Hong Kong Airbnb certainly does not guarantee quality.
Don’t expect the 5-star treatment – If you’re the type who enjoys having a concierge and bellhop carry your luggages upon arrival, Airbnb is not for you. Remember, Hong Kong has a lot of steps that you will have to manoeuvre with your luggages. With a hotel in Hong Kong, this particular issue can be avoided, but many apartment blocks – even more modern ones – often have staircases at the entrance. The traditional Hong Kong ‘walk-up’ can have many flights!
As with any other ‘investment’, and in this case you are ‘investing’ time and money in your trip, it is crucial to do due-diligence prior to any booking on Hong Kong Airbnb. The Hong Kong property owners do have the advantage because while the number of Airbnb properties and their ilk are growing, the choice of good and reasonably priced properties for short term rent is still comparatively low.
So checking the reviews in great detail is an absolute must, and this will do much to ensure that your stay on Airbnb Hong Kong does not disappoint.