Many of our articles on timeshare call for better regulation in how it is sold and the responsibilities of the industry towards consumers, the industry claims they are already regulated through the terms and conditions of membership to various trade bodies such as ARDA & the RDO. But we all know what that really means.
We have also mentioned other platforms consumers are now using to book their vacations, one such platform is Airbnb. The company was founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia, with their first website airbedandbreakfast.com, being launched in August 2008. This later changed to what we know now as Airbnb.com.
As the name suggested, it was to replace “expensive” hotels with affordable bed & breakfast options which suited the lone traveller, with early marketing highlighting the benefits of staying in someone’s home as their guest. The main benefit of this would be in foreign travel, allowing the traveller to immerse themselves in local life and off the usual tourist trails. Having used this myself, it was a very rewarding vacation.
Do you have the spirit?
Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan, there were many headlines where “villas” were “destroyed” with parties being held and on many occasions the police became involved.
There were also many voices raised by local residents in tourism hotspots, such as Barcelona, Madrid, London and now in the news, New York, with the main concerns being the unaffordable increase in rents and the free-for-all due to lack of regulation.
This has become a problem in many cities, with the original concept of staying as a guest with the person in their own home being ignored. Entire “homes” were being rented out with the owner being absent.
In Gran Canaria, many apartments which would have been on the “normal” rental market for local residents were turned over to Airbnb bookings. This created a shortage of affordable long-term rentals for working residents, it also had the effect of turning residential areas into “pseudo-tourist” areas.
Many authorities became aware of this “black market” in unlicensed tourist accommodation, with no regulation covering things such as third-party liability insurance and more importantly health & safety regulations. That was not their only motive we might add, there is also the little point of “TAX”, with many not even declaring the income.
Regulation has been established in most cities and now New York has followed suit with their own new regulations.
One report published today in The Guardian is titled “Airbnb bookings dry up in New York as new short-stay rules are introduced”
From their report, it looks like New York City has brought the original idea back, with “hosts” having to “commit to being physically present in the home for the duration of the rental.” The new regulations also limit the number of guests, this has now been placed at a maximum of two, removing the problem of large and possibly unruly groups, but it also effectively banned family groups.
The report goes on to explain some of the reasons for regulation with city officials and housing advocates claiming the regulations are “necessary to stop apartments from becoming de facto hotels.” One advocate, Murry Cox of Inside Airbnb, stated that “In New York City, residential apartments should be for residential use.” A statement that echoes many more from around the world.
This news has not gone down well with Airbnb, with Theo Yedlinsky calling the rule changes a blow to “the thousands of New Yorkers and small businesses”, many of which are in the outer boroughs and “rely on home sharing and tourism dollars to help make ends meet”.
In a way we agree, that there are those who rely on the extra income, from “home sharing” on a casual basis and not with a full-time lodger. And that is the point, it is supposed to be “home sharing”, not the entire property being rented by an absent landlord, thereby evading all the usual regulations that hotels, guest houses and self-catering accommodations have to abide by as businesses.
There is a place for Airbnb and the original concept, but in a way, this is a problem of Airbnb’s own doing, it is they who allowed the abuses to continue unabated, just as the timeshare developers are responsible for the abuses of their sales agents.
Regulation is not about curbing a business from making money, it is about fairness, ensuring that abuses do not occur. It is about protecting not just the consumer but those who may be affected in the wider community.
But we also have to ask the question of how much of this was motivated by the hotel industry itself, after all, it was encroaching on their monopoly. We leave you to decide on that answer.
Is this you?