Airbnb Checks Out of Russia

Russia’s accommodation sector was still fledgling compared to Western markets when Airbnb came to Russia. The platform filled a domestic vacuum, unlike in other places, where the American company has been accused of disrupting existing markets.

“There is no widespread service apartment or extendedstay accommodation sector in Russia yet,” says Tatiana Veller, of the JLL real estate consultancy. “So people looking for longer stays than they can afford to pay a traditional hotel for have to rent through services like AirBnB and stay in private apartment rentals.”

That especially applies to large Russian cities which receive up to 80 percent in business travelers, she adds.

Meanwhile, small to mid-size entrepreneurs who have set up their own hostels have started using Airbnb as a marketing platform in order to avoid excessive red tape. “It requires less paperwork and it is easier to manage,” says Veller.

Venture outside the large cities, however, and the listings become more antiquated, complete with dusty carpets and flowery wallpaper. Sometimes, the babushka comes with the apartment.

At a time of economic slowdown, ordinary Russians—especially pensioners—are using the platform as a way of supplementing their income by renting out spare rooms. With the average rate for an Airbnb rental at 2,700 rubles ($48) a night, and the average monthly wage around 36,000 rubles ($634), it is easy to see how Airbnb provides a welcome source of income.

The deal also works on the customer’s end. With less money to spend on foreign travel, domestic tourism has increased and traveling Russians are looking for budget accommodation. Russia’s outbound bookings are growing at a rate of about 61 percent year-on-year, the company told The Moscow Times, as Russians are looking for cheaper digs abroad to compensate for a weaker ruble.

Next year’s World Cup tournament could be a gamechanger for Russia’s accommodation sector. It promises to bring a wave of domestic and foreign tourists to the eleven cities hosting the matches—a boon to budget accommodation platforms like Airbnb.