Europe's top tourist cities on collision course with Airbnb

Ten cities want EU assistance in their battle against the short-term lettings website, claiming it harms their housing markets

Ten tourist cities in Europe have joined together in a stand against world’s most popular online hospitality service Airbnb. In a joint statement addressed to the EU institutions last week, the signatories (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bordeaux, Brussels, Krakow, Munich, Paris, Valencia, and Vienna) are asking bloc's authorities to assist them in their battle against the short-term lettings website, which they consider is not only locking locals out of the housing market, but also leading to the 'touristification of numerous neighbourhoods' and the increase of rental costs.

"Where homes can be used more lucratively for renting out to tourists, they disappear from the traditional housing market, prices are driven up even further and housing of citizens who live and work in our cities is hampered," group's joint statement reads. "European cities believe that homes should be used first and foremost for living in."

The latest stand against Airbnb follows a recent non-binding decision issued by the advocate general at the European Court of Justice. In April, it ruled that Airbnb should be classified as a digital service provider, rather than an accommodation provider under EU legislation. If adopted into law, this could mean that Airbnb would not be obliged to  abide by the same laws that govern bed and breakfasts, hotels and other vacation rentals.

Those who have come out against Airbnb’s right to operate freely across the whole of the EU without having to deal with cumbersome bureaucratic hurdles that hinder the growth of the hospitality market, however say local municipal authorities need to be able to enact their own regulations, as many do at this moment, in order to be able to counter the problems caused by circular economy companies that operate online, including Airbnb and several other platforms offering similar services. In this regard, the 10 European cities said every city is different and that the European Court of Justice shouldn't apply one blanket opinion to all of them and insist the online platform to provide municipalities with information, such as the maximum number of days allowed for each individual rental, which Airbnb currently does not provide to the local authorities.

“For this, we need strong legal obligations for platforms to cooperate with us in registration-schemes and in supplying the rental-data for each house that is advertised on their platforms,” the joint statement thus adds. “Where platforms claim that they are willing to cooperate with the authorities, in practice they don’t or only do so on a voluntary basis”.

“One thing must be clear: A carte blanche for holiday rental platforms is not the solution,” the group of 10 cities continues, emphasising that they will  “continue to address the housing shortages” in the hope that they receive the backing of the new European Parliament and the incoming European Commission.

Founded in 2008, Airbnb is an online marketplace and hospitality service which enables people to lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hostel, and hotel rooms. The platform revolutionised the hospitality business model and changed the way it conducted marketing as it identified a fundamental living space and unemployment problem by allowing those with property to become a host by offering affordable lodging. Currently the company, which has a market value worth €23bn, has more than 6 million listings in more than 191 countries (almost every country on earth) and is in nearly 100,000 cities. That's more listings than the top five hotel chains combined.

Thus, Airbnb has faced numerous lawsuits and strict regulations in many of those major cities around the world. Along with the 10 European cities, US cities, like New York, San Francisco, New Orleans and Los Angeles, have also battled the company over regulations and data sharing. According to them the peer-to-peer accommodation networks like Airbnb are disrupting the traditional hospitality model, as tourists choose to live with the locals instead of staying in hotels. Not only can both guests and hosts save money in many cases, but there is the added attraction of going off the well-trodden tourist track and connecting with local communities. This had a result impacted negatively the whole hotel industry, which counts on traditional business models, significantly reducing its profits.

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