Airbnb to introduce Community Fund in Edinburgh

Scotland: Airbnb is to donate £5 from every booking in Edinburgh to local causes by launching a new Community Fund that the home-sharing platform believes will lead to a “rebalancing” of tourism. 

The Community Fund has been established in place of an obligatory tourist tax, otherwise known as a ‘transient visitor levy’, following the halting of plans by the Scottish Nationalist Party [SNP] to implement a charge on all tourists visiting the city during the pandemic.

Ahead of August and what is the busiest time of the year for the city, Airbnb will donate funds to local projects and community organisations with the help of its host community.

Amanda Cupples, general manager for northern Europe at Airbnb, said: “We are determined to do our part to help rebalance tourism in Scotland and to ensure that the return of travel is safe, sustainable and benefits everyone. The Edinburgh Community Fund will highlight how each stay can contribute to Edinburgh’s recovery from the pandemic in addition to the money earned by local Hosts or spent by guests in the community.”

The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers [ASSC] voiced its support for the new Community Fund in Edinburgh.

ASSC chief executive Fiona Campbell said: “The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers welcomes Airbnb’s Edinburgh Community Fund and the platform’s commitment to giving back to the local community. Tourism is a force for good across Scotland’s communities and short-term lets are central in creating memorable experiences and supporting thriving places.”

Edinburgh is due to host a reduced programme for its annual International Festival and Fringe from this August, after they were cancelled last year.

Short-term lets have been blamed by some Edinburgh residents for reducing housing supply in the city, as well as causing disruption to local communities with illegal gatherings and parties leading to perceived ‘overtourism’ and rising rents for locals.

Edinburgh is not alone in this respect, with a number of major tourist hub cities around the world denouncing short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb, including Paris, Venice, Amsterdam and Mexico City. In some cases, stringent restrictions have been placed on the maximum number of days properties can be rented out for or even on the areas where properties can be legally listed.

A study conducted by Homes First last July revealed that only one in 477 short-term rental properties in Edinburgh had proper planning permission. Two of the figures behind the report, Charlotte Maddix and Andy Wightman MSP, claimed that there had been a “staggering pattern of unlawful activity” in the Scottish capital.

Airbnb was also the subject of criticism when hundreds of listings across Scotland and the rest of the UK appeared on its platform despite the lockdown-enforced restrictions on movement last summer, when some guests were alleged to have broken the law by travelling across the country to stay in private, self-catered accommodation.

However, the company has endorsed provisional plans set out by the Scottish Government to introduce a tourist tax through a mandatory registration system, which it says would alleviate concerns in Edinburgh over anti-social behaviour and pressures on the housing market.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has previously spoken out about how travellers will look to stay in further afield destinations and seek new adventures post-pandemic.

Looking ahead, he said there would be a significant “travel redistribution” as travellers vacate more central districts to visit smaller towns and cities, and stay in private spaces in suburbs.

He added that the pandemic had been a large “reset” moment, and people would be dispersing to areas that want to boost their tourism.