This week, reports emerged from the Ministries of Tourism and Finance in Quintana Roo of illegal Airbnb-style accommodations in the up-and-coming districts of Bacalar, Chetumal and Mahahual. Of the seven thousand rental units that operate throughout the area, 80% have been labelled as unsafe for tourists as they operate without government permits. This is dangerous for tourists, as such accommodations may lack basic safety features including fire extinguishers and correct electrical wiring.
Nicanor Pina Ulgade, the president of Bacalar Magical Towns Committee, stated that less than 20% of Airbnbs and similar rental units offered online have the appropriate state permits to run legally:
“Unfortunately, we are not only talking about Airbnb but about many other platforms that are not regulated. There are even guest houses that are offered through social networks… If they do not comply with all the security guidelines, they represent a danger to users”.
Guests are often attracted to stay in these rental accommodations due to their incredibly cheap rates, which makes them more attractive to stay in than luxury resorts or all-inclusive hotels. Furthermore, rental accommodations without a permit have false legitimacy when listed on Airbnb.com, as it is a trusted accommodation website that thousands of travellers trust on a daily basis.
Hoteliers from the region pleaded with the Ministries to carry out a thorough inspection of the matter, to make sure that both Airbnbs and other rental accommodation throughout the region are safe for travellers. This is particularly important for the tourism industry, as safe rentals ensure that travellers will return to the towns of Bacalar, Chetumal and Mahahual for future vacations.
Another issue these clandestine rentals have is a lack of insurance for guests. This was a particular concern for Ulgade, who stated:
“If an accident happens where they (the accommodations) do not even have insurance for their guests, the one who looks bad is the tourist destination”.
Without the correct coverage, guests who happen to have an accident whilst staying in rental accommodation will not get compensation for their injuries, resulting in huge foreign medical bills. This will most likely deter travellers from visiting the Mexican-Caribbean for another vacation, putting more pressure on the tourist industry in the region.
Airbnb stays in the Mexican-Caribbean have skyrocketed over the last few years, as many people had to work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. This trend has continued with many jobs still having the option to be remote, leading to droves of workers now choosing to send emails by the pool or take zoom meetings to the beach on a working holiday.
To ensure that rental accommodation bookings are genuine, travellers are encouraged to look for rentals on the Airbnb website first, as opposed to other social media sites. Travellers should also look for the ‘Superhost’ title on an accommodation listing, which proves that travellers have stayed at the listed accommodation for 100 nights or longer. The host should also have multiple excellent reviews on the site and should willingly give information about the accommodation when guests ask for it.
By staying vigilant of tourist scams, travellers are still able to have a wonderful vacation or working holiday whilst staying in rental accommodation. As always, travellers attempting to book an Airbnb or a similar style of accommodation in Chetumal, Balacar or Mahuahul this summer are reminded to check listings thoroughly for trustworthy credentials and legal permits.
First-time travellers staying in these accommodations should also take heed of safety tips for Airbnb stays in Quintana Roo, to ensure a getaway to the Mexican-Caribbean is as safe and stress-free as possible.
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