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[Credit: François Genon on Unsplash]

EU legislation moves closer as Parliament reaches data agreement

France / EU: EU regulation on data collection and sharing relating to short-term accommodation rental services has moved yet another step closer after the European Parliament approved an agreement reached in November with negotiators from member states today [29 February].

Three months ago, the European Council and European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on a draft regulation to “promote a balanced tourism ecosystem”. In September, the EU’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection [IMCO] Committee adopted a report on the proposal for regulations on data collection and sharing with 31 votes in favour [none against and one abstention], laying down the framework for the implementation of fair and proportionate rules at a local level.

After a series of inter-institutional trialogues, a relevant majority of the European Parliament voted to approve the agreement, with 493 MEP votes in favour, 14 against and 33 abstentions.

It is now up to the EU Council to formally adopt the legislation and for each of the 27 member states to give the final green light to the legislation.

When the green light is given, platforms including Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group / Vrbo and TripAdvisor will be required to transmit activity data to the public authorities across the bloc on a monthly basis. “Small and micro” online short-term rental platforms will be required to do so after every three months.

EU member states will create Single Digital Entry Points for the seamless collection and exchange of information. According to the Council, the points will be interoperable and will guarantee data protection.

Once approved, the new regulation will apply 24 months [two years] after coming into effect.

The proposal for a regulation aims to enhance transparency in the short-term rental sector across the EU, as well as help public authorities appropriately regulate the segment. While online short-term rental platforms and the sharing economy have provided benefits for hosts and tourists respectively, local communities have argued that it has contributed to a shortage of affordable housing and a hike in housing prices in their areas.

Under the terms of the provisional agreement, the new rules will require a unique registration number to be displayed on property websites in order to improve the collection and sharing of data from hosts and online platforms. The data generated will be shared between public administrations across the EU, feeding into tourism statistics and allowing administrations to block illegal rental offerings.

The agreement supports the main objectives of the regulation, as well as introducing a number of improvements, within the relevant provisions of the Digital Services Act and the Services Directive.

Speaking today, Kim Van Sparrentak, rapporteur for the European Parliament, said that there had been a “spike in illegal short-term vacation rentals” which had rendered European cities “more difficult to live in and less accessible”. Van Sparrentak addd that the new law would allow platforms to “better enforce rules for vacation rentals so housing remains accessible for residents”.

Josianne Cutajar, rapporteur for the Transport and Tourism Committee’s position on the file in the European Parliament, welcomed the vote on LinkedIn: “I feel privileged to have had a leading role towards crafting a data collecting framework that not only facilitates effective and proportionate legislation by public authorities but will also empower them to enact balanced data-driven policymaking, taking into account the interests of hoteliers, hosts, holidaymakers, and local communities alike.

“Moreover, I am particularly proud to have fought for more inclusive regulations that simplify the registration process for hosts, ensuring accessibility for all, including those less digitally skilled,” she added.

In a statement, the Irish Self-Catering Federation [ISCF] said that it “welcomed” the register for STR bill, but called on the Irish Government to provide “clarity” on how it plans to proceed with planning legislation for short-term rental businesses in Ireland. The Irish Government has appointed Failte Ireland as the statutory agency to manage the data for Ireland.

Last month, Airbnb said that the new EU-wide rules would be a “watershed” moment for the company and the short-term rental industry.

Georgina Browes, head of EU policy at Airbnb, said: “EU rules mark the beginning of a new chapter for short-term rentals in Europe. For the first time the rules of the road are clear, benefiting hosts, authorities and Europe’s tourism offer to visitors. We stand ready to work with member states and their local authorities on the implementation of the rules to ensure they are a success for everyone.”

The latest data released last month by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical agency, revealed that guests spent more than 546.2 million nights in EU short-term rental accommodation booked via online platforms in the first nine months of 2023. That was a significant growth compared with the same period in 2022 [488.6 million nights; +11.8 per cent]; with nights spent far exceeding pre-pandemic levels [423.7 million nights in the first nine months of 2019; +28.9 per cent].

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