Airbnb adds support for host registers

UK: Airbnb has endorsed calls for its hosts to be registered with governments in countries around the world in order to eliminate rule flouting on its platform. 

The home-sharing platform has suggested a registration system, whereby users would be obliged to obtain a unique number from the government that would allow them to list their homes on the major OTAs, including Airbnb.

Airbnb co-founder Nate Blecharczyk told The Times that the plan would support both housing and tourism laws specific to the cities where its hosts are located.

He said: “Many communities have a lot of rules around housing and tourism. So rather than having an antagonistic approach, or not having any approach, we are going to seek partnership.”

In Scotland, Airbnb recently established its Community Fund in Edinburgh in place of an obligatory tourist tax, otherwise known as a ‘transient visitor levy’, on all tourists to the city during the pandemic, which had initially been mooted by the Scottish Nationalist Party [SNP]. The company is pledging to donate £5 from each booking in the Scottish capital to local causes.

Meanwhile, a 90-day annual limit on short-term rentals is enforced in London, although it has long been alleged that companies are finding loopholes to bypass the letting laws by switching listings between Airbnb and other booking platforms.

The UK Short Term Accommodation Association welcomed Airbnb joining the debate on the future of UK short-term lets and holiday rentals.

Merilee Karr, chair of the STAA and CEO of UnderTheDoormat, said: “We welcome Airbnb’s work on future approaches around short-term and holiday rentals and the opportunity for further discussion and engagement on industry registration with any relevant stakeholders.

“The STAA represents a membership managing tens of thousands of UK properties who want to grow the short term and holiday lets sector responsibly and sustainably. The growth of the sector over the last five years is to set to play an important role this year in the recovery as UK staycations become a staple holiday choice for many families, as restrictions on foreign travel appear to be in place for the foreseeable future.

“We think it’s great that one of our member companies and one of the major consumer brands in the sector is conducting stakeholder research and putting forward positions to help find constructive policy solutions to help the industry grow responsibly.

“The demand for holiday accommodation in this country is an important source of income for hosts and communities across the country. Customer preferences have moved towards short term and holiday rentals, where guests are reassured by the high level of cleaning standards and the natural ability to socially distance in their accommodation.”

“Data from our members shows that bookings, revenues and occupancy levels are starting to recover towards the levels seen in 2019. The sector now has a chance to rebuild and many of the hosts and operators in the market will have the chance to resume earning much needed income, as will the businesses in the local communities in which they are located.

“If the home nations decide to explore registration systems further, established best practice in other European countries point to an industry-wide online system that is simple to use, easy to access and low cost to both administer and register. This will enable homeowners to operate transparently and in line with local policy and legislation without burdensome hurdles to being able to share their homes when they would otherwise be sitting empty,” she added.

Last month, Airbnb announced its “most comprehensive” service updates ever, which includes pledging “world class support” for its global host and guest community. The company will offer everything from emergency information, community leader support, updated safety resources and a redesigned help centre.

In addition to ensuring a more coordinated response to violence or illegal parties in rentals, Airbnb has launched review dispute updates to allow hosts to dispute reviews left by guests who violate party bans, and developed new city portal tools to help city officials manage short-term rental policies and regulations, to enhance trust and the reliability of its service.