Israel Hotel Association blames Airbnb for declines in hotel occupancy

Israel: The number of hotel overnight stays by foreign tourists in September went down from last year according to the Israel Hotel Association.

The trade group coupled the release of the figures with a complaint about unregulated competition from private rentals through online services such as Airbnb.

Foreign tourists spent 658,000 hotel nights in Israel last month, a decline of three per cent from September 2017. A rise in domestic tourism, however, more than made up for the decline: The total number of overnight stays was still up four per cent from September of last year.

Last month, Israelis accounted for 1.3 million hotel nights, up eight per cent from September 2017 and four per cent from September 2016. The association attributed the increase in stays by Israelis to the timing of this autumn’s Jewish holidays, which this year fell almost entirely in September.

The Israel Hotel Association accused companies such as Airbnb, which act as intermediaries in allowing tourists to rent out apartments on a short-term basis instead of opting for hotels.

The association commented on the lack of regulation, which it said was an ‘illegal phenomenon’.

It said: “The figures indicate an increase in the worrying trend of foreign tourist stays at alternative lodgings such as Airbnb, a dangerous and uncontrolled trend that is developing under the noses of the authorities, who aren’t doing anything.”

A year ago, it was reported that there were 8,000 apartments in Tel Aviv alone that were listed on the market as short-term rentals.

Data figures for September follow hotel association figures for July and August that show that foreign tourist accounted for just 31 per cent of Israeli hotel stays during those two months. However, foreign tourism to Israel is increasing as a record 3.6 million tourists visited the country last year.

Hotel occupancy rates showed an overall decline last month, which can be attributed to a raise in available hotel rooms — to 54,400, up three per cent from a year earlier.

On average, hotel occupancy was at 60 per cent in September, down five per cent from a year earlier. The city with the highest occupancy rates was Eilat, at 72 per cent last month, followed by Nazareth at 65 per cent, the Dead Sea at 63 per cent, Tel Aviv at 60 per cent, Jerusalem and Haifa at 57 per cent, Tiberias and Herzliya with 55 per cent each and Netanya at 54 per cent.

For the first nine months of 2018, there were 18.9 million hotel nights at Israeli hotels, an increase of five per cent over the first nine months of 2017, the Israel Hotel Association reported.

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