Cornwall: The rise in Airbnb properties in Cornwall on the market led to major overcrowding issues in the county this summer.
Visit Cornwall said there were about 9,000 Airbnb properties in Cornwall in August, compared to just 17 in January 2016.
Malcolm Bell, chief executive officer for Visit Cornwall said the gridlocked roads were down to a combination of high temperatures in June and July, a rise in homeowners putting their homes on sites such as Airbnb and Home Away and people heading to the beaches.
He added that although Cornwall had been heavily congested over August, he wanted tourists to come and spend their money in the country and believed local residents understood tourism was key to the Cornish economy and a ‘necessary evil’.
It came amid warnings the growing trend of Airbnb properties being listed in Cornwall could lead to overcrowding to the extent that the county’s infrastructure would not be able to cope with the extra influx of tourists.
Mr Bell said: “The weather has certainly been a factor in attracting more people down. The fact the A30 is open also means many people who live in Exeter or Tiverton can be down in Cornwall for the weekend or the day in less than 90 minutes without the roadworks at Temple.
“But Airbnb has definitely added an extra 15% in visitor numbers this year which means in August we were close to being full.
“Their contribution to the economy in May, June and July and September is much welcome but if we have 15% more people year on year in August the scenes we’ve seen with car parks being full and locals and visitors not being able to get anywhere because they’re stuck in traffic will happen more and more often.
“The last thing we want is for local people to become increasingly annoyed and frustrated with tourists. We want visitors to have the best experience possible and if they don’t then they won’t come back,” he added.
However, the good weather appears to have come at a cost to the local Cornish community. Beach towels were left behind on beaches and the A30 and A38 became congested with limited car parking spaces available.
Mr Bell also warned tourists to avoid overcrowded beaches at Pedn Vounder and Kynance Cove.
This led to claims that Cornwall was feeling the ‘Gove Effect’ – named after the former education secretary Michael Gove who banned parents taking children on holiday outside of school term time – as the problems came to a head over the six-week holiday window over August.
Mr Bell believed there was a solution to the overcrowding caused by the mass influx of tourists.
He said: “We had 180,000 visitors a day in Cornwall in August with an extra 20,000 on top of that thanks to Airbnb. If you think there are only 500,000 people living in Cornwall, we can see how we were so close to being at full capacity.
“There is a fine balance between having tourists enjoy themselves and spending their money in local shops and having them and local people being annoyed, visitors not coming back and the impact too many people has on the environment.
“There is one solution. Stagger the school holidays like they do in Germany. That way you extend the holiday season for nine weeks instead of six which is good for businesses and you ease the pressure,” he added.
Visit Cornwall said it was campaigning for Airbnb to work with tourism bodies so all Airbnb rental properties in Cornwall abide by the same rules and regulations as B&B and hotels, are registered with the local authority and pay fines for non-compliance.