Published on January 11th, 2018 | by Mark Chesnut


Here’s One Place Where Airbnb Sucks

I’m a big fan of hotels. I’m also a big fan of Airbnb. Each of these types of accommodations offer big advantages and different ways to enjoy the travel experience, depending on your taste and the specifics of your trip. (And yeah, I know there are some people who are afraid to rent a private apartment or house, and there are also hoteliers and old-school tourism folks who decry the growth of Airbnb and Homeaway. You guys need to get over yourselves and face the diversifying, modern world of travel.)

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There are certain times when I travel — whether on a business trip or on vacation — when I prefer to rent an apartment on Airbnb. And usually, in most of the big cities and vacation hotspots that I visit, Airbnb tends to offer a robust array of condos, apartments and homes for short-term rentals. Often (at least in Latin America and the USA, where I travel most), the prices of renting on Airbnb are extremely competitive — or a much better deal — than renting a hotel room. But I’ve found one destination where Airbnb sucks: Panama.

Wouldn’t it be cool to stay in this skyscraper in Panama? Well you can’t.

It’s not Airbnb’s fault that they suck in Panama. I’m not really criticizing the company at all, actually, but rather the very limited offerings that they have in this Central American nation, compared to other neighboring countries. My husband and I have tried to rent beautiful and affordable apartments in Panama City multiple times, and with no luck. We always end up in a hotel.

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Investigating the reasons why Panama is not an ideal destination to rent via Airbnb is an interesting case study of what are less-than-ideal conditions for short-term vacation rentals in any destination. Here are the reasons why Airbnb sucks in Panama:

• Not Enough Inventory
Panama City, Panama is dotted with soaring, shimmering skyscrapers — including glistening condo and apartment buildings that just beg to be rented. But the problem is, a lot of them are empty, and no one’s trying very hard to fill them. Some say that a large percentage of the empty real estate is related to money laundering. The few properties that are online for short-term rentals fill quickly, and sometimes are full for weeks or months at a time.

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• Non-competitive Prices
Hotels in Panama City, Panama are extremely reasonably priced (even the Waldorf Astoria Panama is often less than $160 a night). So, unlike in other destinations where Airbnb offers a much more value-priced deal, in Panama, the lack of Airbnb inventory and availability — coupled with the super-lovely prices within the booming hotel industry — means that you’ll often do better economically to stay at a hotel rather than rent an apartment or condo.

None of this means that you shouldn’t check all of your options when taking a Panama vacation or business trip (you should weigh all possibilities anywhere you go). But in Panama, unfortunately, my dreams of calling a high-rise luxury apartment home — even if only for a few days — remains just a dream.

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About the Author

The founder and editor of, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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