It is impossible to deny that short-term accommodation has brought some benefits to cities and towns across Europe over the past decade. They have allowed many people to travel and explore the continent, and were a way for locals to have an occasional source of income.
However, as time passed, the sector’s growth has also created multiple problems, the most obvious of which being the much lower offer of long-term accommodation to locals. Lisbon is one of the cities that saw an explosion in tourism during the 2010’s and, consequently, a rise in popularity of short-term accommodation.
As of this moment, there are around 13.000 places listed on Airbnb alone in the city of Lisbon and, more interestingly, 77.1% of hosts have multiple listings, often three or more. This may be an indication that short-term accommodation has become an organized business model that benefits real-estate companies more than individual homeowners. In Spain, the number of available homes in short-term accommodation platforms in the country’s 20 largest cities (300,000) is close to the number of hotel rooms (389,779).
Therefore, it is no coincidence that many cities around Europe and the world have started to draft or even implement regulations over short-term accommodation. The European Commission’s (EC) proposal tackles what is likely one the most damaging issues. By having more transparency on who owns or manages a property, the relevant authorities will have important data to analyse and work with, and new laws and regulations can be drafted taking into account the specificities of each location. It will be at the European Parliament hands to cross check the proposal. Quantitative and qualitative data to wisely act, whenever needed. This increase in transparency will also likely be a benefit for applications and platforms that host these short-term rental offers, as it will make it easier for them to ensure that the hosts using their services follow the local legal requirements, which has the potential to lead to a rise in consumers’ trust towards these platforms. Some of these service providers have already voiced their support for the EC’s proposal.
Naturally, it is important that these measures also ensure that private data belonging to users stays that way. This is vital, given that it has the potential to go through several places before reaching public authorities. Fortunately, the EC has also addressed this, and measures will be put in place to safeguard data. However, these must be tightly and regularly scrutinized.
It is crucial that businesses in general and those in the hospitality sector in particular, have all the conditions to grow and to be successful, especially taking into account what this sector went through during the pandemic. More burden or any disproportional business framework are not the way. However, this must not happen at the expense of those who live in the cities and towns that tourists want to visit, and having the tools to prevent that from happening is essential. This proposal from the European Commission is, in my view, a step in the right direction.