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Paris and Toronto at odds with Airbnb IOC / IPC partnership

Worldwide: Hoteliers in the cities of Paris and Toronto have expressed dismay at Airbnb’s recent global partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic federations, with the former now calling for a referendum on short-term rentals in the city.

Following the partnership announcement this week, French hoteliers have suspended their collaboration with the 2024 Games in Paris owing to what they claim to be “unfair” competition from Airbnb.

The nine-year sponsorship agreement, which spans five Olympic and Paralympic Games leading up to the 2028 Los Angeles Games, involves the IOC and IPC pledging to make at least $28 million worth of Airbnb accommodation available to athletes during the Games. City officials are already at odds with the home-sharing platform as they say it is generating rent rises in the French capital.

Ophelie Rota, a spokesman for the Union of Hotel-Related Trades and Industries, told The Associated Press: “We are now waiting for clarification before we can restart our working relationship with Paris 2024 organisers.”

Rota added that while Tony Estanguet, the president of Paris’ organising committee, had contacted the union to set up a meeting in order to ease the growing tensions between both sides, hoteliers wanted assurances that Airbnb would be subject to the same strict conditions that the hotel industry is facing.

She said: “In the case Airbnb is confirmed for Paris 2024, will they need to respect the same security standards as us?

“Will they be asked to offer a 24-hour reception service? Will they be forced to have a breakfast offer?

“We have been working with Paris 2024 since they started their bid, they should have warned us that this deal was coming up,” she added.

When Paris was awarded the Games in 2017, its accommodation offering at the time, which included 133,000+ hotel rooms available in the capital, was a major selling point to its bid. It also reached a sponsorship deal with hospitality group AccorHotels and negotiated fixed prices for the 2024 Games with local hoteliers.

Paris is estimated to have around 60,000 Airbnb listings currently, representing a 1500 per cent increase from only seven years ago.

The hotel union [UMIH] labelled the IOC-Airbnb partnership “totally disrespectful toward the hotel professionals who have been working since the inception of the bidding process with the Paris 2024 organising team”.

Speaking to Fox Sports, GNI Union head Didier Chenet, described the arrangement an “insult” to IOC and IPC values: “Among the essential values of Olympism, there is respect. Respect for oneself, others, but also for the rules.

“When an athlete does not respect the rules, he is disqualified. Looking at the number of lawsuits pitting Airbnb against the world’s biggest cities, we can seriously question whether Airbnb abides by the rules,” he added.

Airbnb was the subject of legal actions by Paris city officials earlier this year when it was fined 12.5 million euros [$14 million] for allowing non-registered hosts to list their properties in the city on its platform.

As a consequence, Paris socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo wrote to IOC president Thomas Bach to make him aware of the supposed “risks and consequences” of the deal with Airbnb. She accused Airbnb of “destabilising local businesses and competing harshly with traditional hotels”.

Hidalgo, backed up by her deputy mayor in charge of housing, Ian Brossat, told Europe 1 that she is planning to hold a referendum that will make a decision on Airbnb’s future presence in Paris if she is re-elected as mayor in 2020.

Deputy mayor of sports and tourism, Jean-Francois Martins said: “She [Hidalgo] believes that Airbnb has a nefarious impact on housing. Parisians will have the choice of several options, including the possibility of banning Airbnb in certain areas.”

Similar challenges await in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, which has had bylaws aimed at reining in short-term rentals approved by an independent tribunal in Ontario.

Under the new rules, operators in the city will be required to live at the homes that they are listing online, listed properties will be limited to three bedrooms for usage, and they must be registered on the relevant platform.

Much of the anger directed at Airbnb in Toronto has stemmed from a systemic housing shortage in the city, with researchers also suggesting that Airbnb has already removed thousands of short-term rental properties on the market there.

An Airbnb spokesman responded by saying that Toronto’s incoming rules would “unfairly punish” homeowners who act responsibly but added that it would collaborate with the city to come to a satisfactory solution for all.

Toronto mayor John Tory told The Guardian: “This is good news for Toronto residents and a step in the right direction when it comes to regulating short-term rentals and keeping our neighbourhoods liveable.”

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