Going to unfamiliar places can be daunting. We spoke to a youth hostel manager, an explorer turned Airbnb host, a flight attendant and a tourism board manager to find out how they help you make the most of your trip
Don’t ask Michael Fischer where he’s from. It’s one of his least favorite questions. After launching a short-term vacation rental business back in 2002, the native Wiener now has access to a network of apartments all over the world, which he rents out or stays in himself, making him a true global citizen.
But don’t refer to him as an Airbnb host. His next least favorite question is, “What do you do?” He prefers the German term Lebenskünstler, roughly translated, “master in the art of living.” “That’s one of the words they got right in German,” said the curly blond haired 51-year-old, with a broad smile.
Having sold his paintings in New York and traveled the world on sailboats, getting into the tourism and accommodation industry has allowed Fischer to craft an envy-inducing dream lifestyle, spending winter in Portugal, spring in New York, and part of the summer back in his hometown. Although he left Vienna for New York at 23, he’s fond of the few remnants of his childhood that remain here now.
“I like conversing with locals in the old Beisln. When I was growing up, many people had small apartments, so the Beisl was their living room. Even though my parents had PhDs, we still lived in the Gemeindebauten (social housing), so upstairs we would speak ‘proper German’ and downstairs we would speak Viennese. Language is really something that can give you a feeling of home.”
Having built his short-term rental empire on his own platforms and a proprietary channel management system, the rise of Airbnb has compelled Fischer to sign on last year – a sort of necessary evil.
“It’s like the Ikea of vacation rentals,” he snorted. “You do all the work and they get the money. Even if you’re offering your place much cheaper on your own website, people still book on sites like booking.com. My son doesn’t even know that there’s any other option than Airbnb!” he said, with a laugh.
But the industry is in flux and Fischer suspects the Airbnb craze has a “sell-by date.” Meanwhile, he’s always on the lookout for new locations. Miami Beach, with its American openness, warmer climate than Portugal, and Latin spirit, is a new favorite. Paris has beckoned recently with relaxed cafés and a new (strictly confidential) business idea. But Fischer doesn’t want to refer to any future project as a “venture.”
“Let’s call it an ‘ad-venture,’” he suggested, delighted at making up a new word on the spot.
“As a citizen of the world, you’re basically at home everywhere and nowhere.”