Small disclaimer: please only travel if and when it is safe to do so. I’m sorry you missed your standard two weeks in the sun, but a holiday is not a right, whereas the safety of the general population is.

For those of you heading out on a staycation soon or who are optimistically planning travel for next year, I urge you to do your part and not book an Airbnb. I understand the appeal – beautiful homes for reasonable prices, often in a prime location, compared to the shabby hostel a few miles out.

We all know the rules on travelling responsibly at this time – wear a mask, stay two metres apart from other households, and as always, don’t litter. However, this year there is an unwritten rule that if you are travelling for luxury, then you should do your part to support the local economy. The tourism industry everywhere has taken a massive hit, and anyone fortunate enough to be taking a small break should shoulder some responsibility for helping to rebuild it.

Most properties on Airbnb are owned as second homes by individuals or families. Where hotels and hostels create employment by hiring cleaning staff, receptionists, bartenders etc, Airbnb properties typically create none of this employment. Further, where small hotels, inns or B&B’s have to pay for fire alarm systems and waste collection, owners of Airbnb’s do not. This deregulated market puts smaller businesses that truly contribute to the economy at a real financial disadvantage.

Because you can make more money renting your property as an Airbnb than you can renting it to local residents, tourist cities and areas with great natural scenery are literally accommodating tourists over the local population. The increasing popularity of Airbnb are pushing up housing prices, so some lifelong residents cannot even afford to rent a property where they work and have always lived, let alone buy one. For example, there is a real housing crisis in central Edinburgh. Yet, a Guardian analysis found that in the Old Town, 29 out of every 100 properties can be found on Airbnb. Often, when renting out a place for the night you are essentially driving up prices for local residents while putting money in the hands of a multiple-property owner who is contributing nothing to the economy (ew!).

The central problem with Airbnb is that the money brought in is predominantly hoarded in the hands of already wealthy individuals, without diffusing and supporting locals. Particularly after such a difficult year for small businesses, I plead with readers to support local, individual-owned hotels and B&Bs if you decide to go on a short break. That extra twenty pounds establishes a precedent that if we decide to enjoy the wonders of another place for our leisure, we should pay for that leisure and respect the area and the people who live there.

While we’re at it, this responsibility should be kept in mind for the whole trip. So eat at local restaurants rather than at a chain. Visit only if it’s safe to do so; don’t put local communities at an increased risk of coronavirus for the sake of your holiday. If the risk of coronavirus lowers, take public transport rather than increasing pollution and making it difficult for residents to park their cars.

I appreciate this all takes extra time and usually money. But just because many of these places rely on the tourism industry doesn’t mean we should abuse that need. Holidaying is a luxury, and if you find yourself to be one of the lucky ones who might get a break then it really is only the decent thing to cough up (not literally – please isolate if you have symptoms!) and properly support those who make that experience possible.