Imagine planning your much-anticipated vacation, scrolling through countless options for the perfect beach or mountain rental. Amidst the amenities listed, you come across a small yet contentious feature: security cameras. Suddenly, questions arise. Will these cameras enhance your sense of safety or encroach upon your privacy, hindering your ability to fully unwind? On the other hand, can hosts fully protect their valuable vacation properties without surveillance?
To shed light on this complex topic, we asked 1,000 vacation renters how they feel about security cameras and dug through Airbnb listing data from 84 U.S. vacation destinations.
Here are some of our key insights:
Over one in three American adults have stayed in a short-term rental like Airbnb in the last 2 years.
38% of recent guests said that they would feel safer at short-term rentals with cameras, but 34% said that they would feel less safe.
Cameras could impact hosts’ profits: 42% of potential renters said that security cameras would make them less likely to book a vacation property.
6% of guests said they’d found undisclosed cameras in their vacation rentals.
95% of Los Angeles Airbnb listings had security cameras, more than any other popular vacation spot in the country. Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Panama City Beach, Florida had the least at 46%.
Do Travelers Feel Safer on Vacation with Security Cameras?
Short-term rental platforms are popular as they offer guests the chance to rent out rooms or entire homes directly from their owners, giving them a more personal and unique experience than a hotel. Most of the time, the stays go smoothly for guests and hosts, but crimes occasionally arise at short-term rental properties. Some of them are shocking enough to make the news.
For example, in late 2022, guests stole a dryer, television, appliances, and more from a Tulsa Airbnb. The host reported the incident to the police, who were able to use security camera footage to identify the criminals and confirm they had recently made a booking at the residence.
The security cameras helped the host and law enforcement officials in that case. But on the other of the spectrum, stories of hidden cameras in short-term rentals also spook potential guests. TikTok user Lyssiemento’s videos recently went viral when she explained how she and a friend discovered hidden cameras in their Airbnb and found they were being watched. This practice violates Airbnb safety policies and endangers guests.
While security cameras are often listed as amenities on platforms like Airbnb, only some see them as beneficial. In our quest to understand customer perspectives, we sought to determine if the presence of security cameras actually made renters feel safer. Our analysis focused on American adults who’d stayed in or considered booking a vacation rental in the past two years.
The results were mixed. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they feel safer in rentals with cameras, but 34% stated that they would feel less secure, even if the cameras were positioned outside the rental property. Interestingly, our findings indicate that women and younger individuals were likelier to feel unsafe in a short-term rental with cameras than men and older adults.
We also found that the presence of security cameras at short-term rentals could impact hosts’ profitability. Forty-two percent of potential renters said that security cameras would make them less likely to book a listing! This is important for hosts to be aware of. As they work to protect their homes and properties, they could be driving away potential guests. Each host must weigh the pros and cons and the potential financial impacts of installing security cameras at their short-term rentals.
“For hosts, the benefits are plentiful. Cameras offer a way for owners to ensure that their rental is used appropriately. They're able to check in on their property and have footage available if there is a problem,” said Larry Snider, vice president of operations at Redwood Vacation Rentals. However, hosts must be totally transparent about the locations of the cameras.
Besides cameras, hosts employ many other types of smart home technology in their rentals to improve safety.
Guests and hosts need to communicate their expectations of privacy when using smart devices like locks and cameras at their properties since they can be misused. Hosts should inform guests about the presence of smart locks and any other smart devices in operation within the rental property.
“Additionally, hosts should ensure that any recorded footage is properly stored and secured to prevent unauthorized access,” said Attorney Mike Schmidt. This step is crucial today as data breaches are all too common.
Unfortunately, 6% of Airbnb guests said they had discovered cameras in short-term rentals that hadn’t been disclosed on the unit listing. This is also a violation of Airbnb policy and should be reported immediately. “Not a single glimpse of the property’s internal space like bathrooms or bedrooms should be recorded,” said real estate broker Theresa Raymond. “Several lawsuits have been filed against owners for using hidden cameras and using their private footage.”
While owners are responsible for disclosing cameras, guests can also take steps to protect themselves, such as thoroughly reading reviews and communicating with the host before booking. Nathan Russo of Florida Panhandle beach rentals added one more important step for vacationers to complete upon arrival: “It’s very important for renters to do a full sweep of the property first thing when they arrive,” Russo said. This can reveal potential security issues and allow guests time to find alternative housing.
Most and Least Surveilled Cities on Airbnb
We also analyzed Airbnb data for the most popular vacation destinations among Americans in the United States, encompassing approximately 80 locations. Our study revealed significant variations in the prevalence of listings equipped with security cameras across these destinations. Whether you prioritize the added security of cameras or have privacy concerns, here are the hot summer destinations most and least likely to feature surveillance:
In Los Angeles, Atlantic City, Oklahoma City, and Las Vegas, more than 90 percent of Airbnb listings feature security cameras. Several factors could contribute to a higher prevalence of Airbnb listings with security cameras in these destinations. First, remember that these are major tourist destinations, attracting many visitors yearly. The higher density of tourists and the potential for higher crime rates in some areas might lead hosts to prioritize security measures, including installing security cameras, to protect their properties and guests.
The types of properties available in a particular city can also impact the prevalence of security cameras. In cities like Los Angeles, where luxury or high-value properties are common, hosts may be more inclined to invest in advanced security systems, including cameras, to safeguard their valuable assets.
On the other hand, listings in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Panama City Beach, Florida, and Ocean City, Maryland were least likely among the cities analyzed to have security cameras. Many of the towns with fewer security cameras are known for their natural beauty, outdoor activities, and scenic landscapes. Hosts and guests in these areas may want to prioritize privacy and encourage their guests to be immersed in nature with minimal technology distractions.
Similarly, several cities with fewer Airbnb listings with cameras were in Florida’s beach destinations. Florida has a strong tourism industry, and many hosts emphasize creating a welcoming and hospitable environment for guests. Establishing trust through personal interactions, open communication, and attentive customer service is often valued more than relying on surveillance technology. Additionally, Florida is a conservative state, where people may be more likely to feel that security cameras infringe upon their civil rights.
Interestingly, some of the least-surveilled cities also had the lowest average ratings among the cities in our analysis. These four vacation hotspots had listings with the lowest average ratings from guests:
Myrtle Beach, SC
Ocean City, MD
Panama City Beach, FL
While most of these cities aren’t known to be the most upscale vacation destinations and attract large spring break crowds, it is worth considering whether increased surveillance could improve beachgoers' behavior in these areas. By embracing enhanced surveillance, it is possible that both hosts and guests could benefit from safer and more secure vacation experiences.
In conclusion, security cameras in short-term rentals remain a topic of mixed opinions among guests. As the sharing economy continues to evolve and technology advances, it is crucial for hosts and guests to engage in open communication, respecting each other's perspectives and privacy concerns.
Deni Supplee, founder of Sparkrental.com, said owners and guests should keep track of law and technology changes to maximize their safety. “As AI becomes more and more advanced…It is important that all owners of rentals, including vacation ones, be very aware of the law and any changes. Lawsuits regarding personal privacy violations are on the rise,” she explained.
Striking a balance between security and guest comfort is essential to ensure a positive and satisfactory experience for all parties involved. Ultimately, the decision to install security cameras should be guided by mutual understanding and respect for privacy, while considering each short-term rental's unique characteristics and dynamics.
How we did this:
To explore the multifaceted perspectives surrounding security cameras in short-term rentals, we asked 1,000 recent short-term rental customers about their security preferences. We also analyzed thousands of Airbnb listings in over 80 popular American vacation destinations to see which cities have the most and least hosts with security cameras.