What happened to the guest room?

By Lupita Peimbert

Growing up in the 70’s, I saw how it was the norm to have a guest room in the house.  Family and friends would stay comfortably there during their vacation, or for a wedding in town, or while visiting the family for a wide scope of happy-to-sad occasions.

The unspoken rule was for the hosting family to go out of their way to make their guests’ stay as pleasant as possible, from redecorating the room to ensuring it was spotless to preparing a delicious breakfast, up to and including entertaining the guests. If no actual guest room existed, the parents of the house would either give up their bedroom or ask the less assertive, let’s call him or her more “conciliatory” child to give up their room and privacy to others.

…the idea of having a stranger staying at one’s own house was unfathomable for most people.

Aside from the generosity to family or friends, the idea of having a stranger staying at one’s own house was unfathomable for most people. It was customary that strangers, visitors, tourists, and travelers stayed at hotels. With the exception of a subculture of adventurous world travelers who for long have exchanged houses and sleeping in the beds of people they had not met, most people lived by the well-established conventions and norms about having guests stay in one’s house.

 Nowadays, the guest room is a source of income. Strangers staying at one’s home can also be potential friends; at the very least, they can become loyal clients of a business that technically may not fully be a business but at its core is an enterprise.

A few decades later, those conventions and norms have changed, propelled by economics and perhaps something else we are yet to fully define. Nowadays, the guest room is a source of income. Strangers staying at one’s home can also be potential friends; at the very least, they can become loyal clients of a business that technically may not fully be a business but at its core is an enterprise. The host family is turning into landlord, service provider, and welcoming friend –judging by the growing number of people staying at the house of others. Not only families but also singles are doing this type of temporary accommodation. The main conduit to this is “Airbnb.”

 Airbnb is an online and mobile San Francisco based company funded in 2008. Through their website, hosts and travelers search and find what accommodations they might need, desire or can afford.

Airbnb is an online and mobile San Francisco based company funded in 2008. Through their website, hosts and travelers search and find what accommodations they might need, desire or can afford. According to Airbnb’s latest report, they have 300,000 homes listed at this point, while 4 million guests stayed in rooms in any of the listed houses in 192 countries last year. These numbers are surely growing while you are reading this. Airbnb has the honor of being the organization that spearheaded the temporary-housing revolution for American and other travelers.

However, most likely the first website that served as bridge for hosts and travelers was Craig’s List, a popular website in the United States and other countries, founded in 1995. Through this site people have done temporary housing exchanges and rentals, free in the majority of cases.

Perhaps a counterpart or a competition to Airbnb is Bedycasa, a site with similar offerings based in Europe, founded in 2007.

Many people easily gets excited and interested once they learn the details on these resources. Online accommodation is a relatively new activity to many.

The experienced Indie traveler, the adventure seeker, the young, the Millennial, the open-minded, the online-adept, and those traveling on a budget, just to name a few, seem to have taken full advantage of this trend. The rest of the population, including those highly skeptical of anything online, not to mention the out-and-out risk-averse, are looking at these resources with a skeptical eye. Interestingly, the potential money-making opportunity attracts the eye, and the packets ;-)! Many people easily gets excited and interested once they learn the details on these resources. Online accommodation is a relatively new activity to many.

At the heart of this phenomenon “trust,” is the binding element.

At the heart of this phenomenon “trust,” is the binding element. Hosts and guests must believe that the other means well, that they will give what they offered, and that they both are, pardon the redundancy, trustworthy. Add to the mix the possibility of creating new friendships, fostering cultural exchanges, making international connections and in essence, co-creating community.

Have no doubts, what once served as a showcase for one’s generosity and good manners, has now become a source of income. That is what happened to the guest room!

About:
Lupita Peimbert is a San Francisco Bay Area-based, bilingual writerShe was news reporter for Telemundo, Univisión, La Opinión and CNN Español.