Airbnb and the future of tourist accommodation

By | Category: Travel rumblings
hotel bathroom

Using Airbnb provides a wider choice of accommodation than traditional tourism providers can

Airbnb has been one of the tourist phenomena of the last decade. It has enabled people to use their own homes to fund their travel plans from the rent that comes in from holidaymakers and travellers and it has also provided an income source.

It has also raised serious issues about escalating flat/apartment and house prices in the places where the greatest rents can be charged as well as concerns about future hotel and accommodation development. On top of that tax authorities are looking at wanting to take their cut of any revenue that the homeowner makes.

A couple of weeks ago, the Caribbean Tourism Organization announced that it was going to discuss with Airbnb tourism issues and I would be surprised if this wasn’t discussed earlier this week when Caribbean ministers met to discuss tourism although the press release gives no indication that it did.

What is concerning the Caribbean is that 41,000 types of accommodation are being made available on Airbnb which has flooded the market with additional accommodation. If visitors are staying at Airbnb accommodation they aren’t staying at hotels, villas, apartment blocks, resorts and other tourist accommodation. Why should this matter?

It matters because Airbnb places don’t create jobs but may cause jobs in traditional tourist accommodation to decline. It matters because governments are probably not getting the tax receipts they were expecting. It matters because too many people in “authority” don’t know how to deal with this “new” tourism entrant and it matters because an oversupply of accommodation may encourage some accommodation developers to postpone or cancel developments.

In Barcelona, there is almost a black market economy as owners or tenants rent out rooms to visitors. This isn’t much different from the Airbnb business model. These are unregulated, the local government gets no tax benefits and the visitor has little security if something goes wrong. There, government is cracking down and trying to close unauthorised accommodation outlets.

In New York there is a different problem that was highlighted recently in The Guardian. Airbnb has 46,000 accommodation providers signed up in the city and local concern is that this new source of revenue is driving up house/apartment prices as landlords can get more money from visitors than local tenants. Affordable housing is on the decline, some claim.

It isn’t just New York that is affected. Any city with tourist attractions be it heritage, lifestyle, attractions, shopping will probably have the same problems.

Over 140 million Airbnb contracts to let accommodation have been agreed in the first decade of the company’s life. That will probably double at least in the next decade. It has left local government and tourism organisation trying to decide how to get a slice of the action without damaging the tradition tourist economy accommodation providers.

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