A new report from watchdog organization AirbnbWATCH calls Airbnb the "ultimate villain" at San Diego Comic Con, and shows that price gouging surrounding the massively popular event can reach levels in excess of 1,000%. Airbnb listings in many densely populated areas and trendy vacation spots tend to be dominated by commercial elements playing the market, such as real estate agents and vacation rental outfits. This can reach the point that private listings are difficult if not impossible to find during peak times, and this is when price gouging, such as the kind seen in the listings depicted by the attached images, can happen.
The figures below should largely speak for themselves; price gouging approaching 1,500% can turn a $145 room into a $2,200 one. With hotels either all booked up or engaging in similar behavior, travelers have little choice but to factor the hyped room cost into their travel expenses, or figure out how to make alternative and possibly inconvenient or dangerous arrangements, such as sleeping in their cars, lodging impractically far away from the event, or finding a friend, family member, or kind stranger to bunk with. This sort of market behavior can be observed surrounding many major events, according to AirbnbWATCH. Airbnb Global Policy and Public Affairs Head Chris Lehane has denied allegations of price gouging among hosts in the past, saying that a certain amount of inflation during periods of high demand is normal. According to Lehane, Airbnb listings may increase an average of $20 during the Super Bowl, as one example.
Price gouging on Airbnb is yet another front in the longstanding and wide-ranging debate on the nature of the service and whether it actually has a place in the modern economy. According to AirbnbWATCH, the company commonly does little, or even nothing, to stem this phenomenon. Airbnb recently unveiled the ability to split a rental, which can take some of the sting out of things like this, but this kind of price gouging being apparently tolerated sends a clear message to Airbnb guests and hosts alike; the company is choosing its battles when it comes to keeping user experience within expectations, and it seems that price is not one of those battles.