Wednesday 28 September 2016

Brendan O'Connor: We're a nation of hoteliers

Published 16/08/2015 | 02:30

Airbnb
Airbnb

Post diagnosis of national points of madness is easy. Anyone can look back now and say: "Ah you knew it had all gone too far when . . ."

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To try and see madness at the time, through everyone's madness, is a much more difficult thing. And it is not usually a thing that is welcomed. So it is with trepidation and a slight amount of delicacy that I suggest we may have hit one of those high points of madness that we will look back on in years to come and say: "We knew it had all gone mad when . . ."

In years to come, historians will view as some kind of significant point the moment when Irish people started kicking up about having to pay tax on turning their houses into boutique hotels. It will be referred to as the great Airbnb madness of 2015. But right now we just take it for granted, as another one of those things. Like the tradition of the bean an ti. And sure, haven't we always welcomed strangers from America into our houses? It's just that they used to claim to be distant relatives looking for their roots, and we usen't charge them. But now it's a whole new ball game. Everyone is an amateur Basil Fawlty or Francis Brennan these days.

We all know Airbnb hosts. They arrive over to your house unexpectedly on a Friday. And gradually you begin to notice things. You notice that they have brought their children. And food, and sleeping bags, and maybe some changes of clothes. And having stayed really late, they then start yawning and saying that it's so late that maybe they should just sleep in your house. And eventually, after some prodding, they admit they have nowhere to sleep because there are four people from Kentucky occupying their house for the next three weeks. And you understand then why they have all their valuables with them.

Other telltale signs that people are Airbnb-ing too much is when you call around to their houses and they ding a little bell when you arrive at the door and one of their children runs out and tries to take your bags and put them on to a small trolley. And then they ask you if you had a good journey, and you're thinking you only came from across the road, so why are they offering you hot towels to wipe your hands with? If, at the end of a convivial evening at a friend's house, you are presented with a bill, that's a dead giveaway. But you probably should have noticed something earlier on, when they said at a certain point that you should retire to the residents' lounge for a drink after dinner because the main bar is closing.

The presence of Corby trouser presses, and random commercial travellers in the bathroom, is also a sign.

If it's annoying you that your friends are, in the parlance of an Irish Mammy, treating their house like a hotel, there's one sure-fire way to get back at them. There is one thing that is guaranteed to stretch their hospitality too far.

Ask them for a Vat receipt.

Sunday Independent

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