UK: Tourism and hospitality performance assessor Quality in Tourism has released its white paper report, entitled ‘Safety Standards in the Sharing Economy: The Next Disaster Story’.
The purpose of the white paper is to highlight some of the issues that the industry is facing and more importantly, a solution that hosts can adopt to ultimately protect themselves and consumers. In particular, it reports on the recent rise in homestay rentals and the significant safety risk that a lack of regulation poses to consumers.
All hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses in the UK are required to follow standards that ensure basic safety requirements are met to protect the welfare of their guests.
However, according to Quality in Tourism, there is a lack of regulation within the sharing economy that is allowing landlords to rent part or all of their properties without any safety checks or assessments whatsoever. This means that consumers could be staying in unfit accommodations, some of which do not even have basic safety equipment such as smoke detectors or carbon monoxide alarms (as highlighted by the All Party Parliamentary Group in Westminster last year).
Quality in Tourism independently surveyed 2,000 people who have stayed overnight at least once in the last 12 months. It found that 89 per cent think that smoke detectors should be mandatory, 73 per cent do not check for a gas safety certificate, 61 per cent think carbon monoxide alarms are essential and 83 per cent support the mandatory regulation of all pay-to-stay properties (not just hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses).
Deborah Heather, director at Quality in Tourism [which assesses properties with its Safe, Clean and LegalTM scheme], said: “Over the last few years, industry standards have eroded for a number of reasons including the Local Authority budget for inspections and the pure speed of innovation and industry growth.
“Our white paper is an important wake up call to authorities across the UK that changes need to be urgently made to level the playing field and align all operators to become accountable and improve consumer safety, before it’s too late,” she added.
These findings highlight the requirement for an enforceable, mandatory regulation that sets out minimum standards. These standards should include compliance with all established frameworks including Fire Safety, Food Hygiene and Building Regulations, face-to-face inspection of all properties, proof of all relevant insurances, minimum levels of cleanliness and hygiene, and guarantees around client money protection and PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance.
A Primary Authority partnership has now been established between Quality in Tourism and Cornwall Council, and this has been approved by the Secretary of State. The former says it has developed its Safe, Clean and LegalTM framework, which is able to be rolled out across the country’s vast range of short-term accommodation properties to enable a ‘register’ of accommodation that has reached safe operating standards.
Safe, Clean and LegalTM acts as an ‘off the shelf’ framework that can be easily adopted by any council to not only protect their consumers but also their destination’s brand.