Airbnb should stay within hotel industry rules

Airbnb se Trips kan jou help om jou reise te beplan.
Airbnb se Trips kan jou help om jou reise te beplan.

Johannesburg - The hotel industry is going to insist that Airbnb gets the same treatment as hotels, guesthouses and other tourist accommodation in the rest of the country.

Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa, the body that represents the hotel industry, said people who rented out their homes through this online accommodation website should also pay tax, apply for liquor licences and be visited by health inspectors, and tour guides must be registered.

Airbnb is a website through which homeowners can advertise and rent out their private homes to people who want to stay in them for short periods of time. It began in the US in 2008 and grew fast, spreading around
the world.

By 2014 about a million places worldwide were available on Airbnb and by 2015 there were more than 2 million, according to information from Euromonitor International, a market research company.

Airbnb falls into the category of short-term rentals which, according to Euromonitor statistics in South Africa, saw a sharp increase in income between 2014 and 2105. In 2015, it was R509.6 million per year, up from R73.10 million in 2014. In 2010, it was R61.8 million per year.

But that’s still a lot less than hotels, which earned R26.4 billion per year in 2015 and R24.6 billion in 2014.

Airbnb comprises 74% of the short-term rental category. That is why traditional accommodation does not yet view Airbnb as a threat.

“They play on our playground but we follow the rules and they don’t,” said Tshivhengwa.

“Should we now also say we’re not going to follow the rules? No, that would be bad for the country’s reputation.”

But this situation could no longer be allowed to persist.

“The department has to do something about it this year,” he said.

Tshivhengwa said one reason it was urgent that something be done was that hotel groups were hesitant to build new hotels while the playing field was not level.

Another reason is that Airbnb does not create jobs and that employment opportunities could be lost if others are pushed out of the market.

According to him, Airbnb has become especially popular in the Western Cape.

READ: R100 000 a night to stay in Cape Town

While the national department of tourism undertook to consider regulations for Airbnb last year, the Western Cape government’s website calls the homestay network’s business model “excellent news”.

In November last year, Cape Town was included in Airbnb’s new project, Trips, which will see private citizens act as tour guides.

But these tour guides will not be registered, as required by the Tourism Act.

The national department of tourism said it welcomed the project, but expected Airbnb to comply with regulations.

READ: When Airbnb sells more than just beds

Trevor Bloem, departmental spokesperson, said: “Airbnb informed the department of this just three days before it was announced. The department then informed Airbnb of all the requirements, including that any person who acts as a tour guide or tour operator must be registered.”

In November, the department had already said that the Western Cape provincial government would work with Airbnb to make sure they complied with the rules.

But Alan Winde, Western Cape minister of finance, did not respond to questions this week about what would be done to ensure that the rules are complied with.

According to Euromonitor, there is no clear answer as to whether Airbnb really diverts business from hotels. They do, however, refer to a report of Boston University’s management school in which it was found that there was a 0.05% decrease in quarterly hotel income for every 1% increase in rental accommodation on Airbnb.

Cheaper hotels were especially vulnerable.

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