Short-term let community reacts to ITV Airbnb documentary

UK: Following the airing of a television documentary on ITV last week, Airbnb and individuals from the hospitality community have given their reaction to ShortTermRentalz.

Airbnb: The True Cost? , a Tonight programme special, went out on the British channel on Thursday 20 February, and weighed up the consequences of the home-sharing platform’s “stratospheric” growth by interviewing hosts and short-term letting companies from the sector.

The ITV programme explained how Airbnb has “boomed over the past few years”, reaching an estimated value of over £30 billion, and how for many people, it is a “cost effective and convenient service”.

It also addressed questions over the 90-night cap on short-term lettings in London, noise from parties in Airbnb properties and the perceived “disneyfication” of certain neighbourhoods where properties are frequently rented out over the platform. 

In response to the airing of the programme, Quality in Tourism director Deborah Heather said: “The programme failed to address the fact that demand has increased supply. The bigger issue is around operating responsibly, but not just for communities, for consumers who need to be protected from operators with inadequate fire safety or carbon monixide detectors.

“Operators may also be unaware they need suitable insurance, or that mortgages or leases could be made null and void from short-term rentals. Innovation is not wrong necessarily, we just need adequate corresponding rules and regulation that are enforceable and reasonable,” she added.

However, Kathryn Davis, interim CEO of Visit Bath and head of tourism at Destination Bristol, said:

“The documentary was a well-balanced piece demonstrating both the positive and negative impact of unregulated short-term lets.  It is important to remember that there are many short-term lets using sites like Airbnb as a distribution channel who do operate in accordance with legislation, but it is clear that regulation is needed. 

“This is for the benefit of both residents who are losing their communities and for those staying in properties who may be unaware of the risks that they may face. 

“There should be a level playing field for all business and so I would welcome the introduction of legislation to ensure that those being run as a business are subject to the same criteria. 

“It is critical that the tourism industry is managed responsibly and that this is done as soon as possible to ensure standards are adhered to and that guests can stay in the knowledge that they are in a safe and secure environment,” she added.

Bath in Somerset was one of the cities to feature in the documentary, with around 2000 Airbnb listings believed to be located there. The programme featured one local resident, Veronica, who said she had been affected by noise from parties held in Airbnbs and voiced fears that her neighbourhood had been “broken up” by the increase in short-term lets.

A spokesperson for Airbnb told ShortTermRentalz: “Airbnb helps spread the benefits of tourism across the UK while putting money directly into the pockets of local families and businesses. We are good partners to cities and we have worked with more than 500 governments and organisations around the world to help hosts share their homes and follow the rules.

“We were the first platform to work with London to limit how often hosts can share their homes and we have led calls for a national registration system in the UK,” they added.

To view the Tonight documentary in the UK, visit the ITV Hub website here.