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Editorial: Airbnb's booming business in Niagara Falls

Some travelers prefer to immerse themselves in new environments, getting to know an area from the ground level and carrying on as locals, shopping for groceries at the local market and navigating around like longtime residents.

For these intrepid travelers, a hotel just won’t do. They are among an increasing number finding their temporary digs through home-sharing websites.
For Airbnb, the largest of these websites, business is booming in Niagara Falls.

As News Niagara reporter Thomas J. Prohaska wrote, since 2014, the number of Niagara Falls-area residents hosting tourists in their home has quadrupled. And the number of tourists opting for home stays versus hotel stays is six times greater than a short three years ago. Airbnb is boasting of its increased success near Niagara Falls and other leading New York State parks. And for good reason.

Airbnb said it offers 160 homes in the vicinity of Niagara Falls, up from 40 in 2014, and also has a strong presence across the border. While bookings have rocketed in the past few years, home-sharing is still dwarfed by the 3.4 million people who stayed overnight in Niagara Falls hotels and motels last year.

That relatively small slice of the pie is probably why hoteliers have not raised the alarm. Their calm reaction is appropriate. Like it or not, the gig economy is here and it is gaining steam.

As long as those engaged and profiting in this new-style economy are kept to the same standards that apply to the old guard, there should be few problems. It is only when the new gig-on-the-block plays by its own rules (Uber’s well-documented troubles, for example) that issues can occur.

Frank Strangio, owner of the Quality Inn and Wingate by Wyndham Hotel in Niagara Falls, said: “As long as they’re playing by the same rules as everyone else, we don’t have a problem with them.”

Some home-sharing situations offer potential guests nothing more than a bed to sleep in. Others offer the run of a luxury home or helpful homeowners who act as tour guides. And there are plenty of spaces in between the extremes.

And with the price of an overnight stay on Airbnb ($107) about the same as a hotel ($110), the decision may boil down to location and how much privacy visitors want.

The gig economy is here to stay and as long as officials ensure an even playing field, the old and new should be able to coexist, to the benefit of travelers.

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