Airbnb regulation: A thumbs down from our readers

2017-06-05 16:20
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Cape Town - While Airbnb offers travellers affordability and a local perspective, and has boosted the South-African economy, the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) says that the online accommodation bookings platform needs to abide by formal regulations in order to operate fairly.

“Non-compliance and lack of formal regulation is tipping the scale unfairly in Airbnb’s favour,” says Fedhasa.

The issue of non-compliance and the regulation of the sharing economy has been an ongoing global debate that has started to filter over into South Africa.

SEE: Is Airbnb a threat to SA's tourism sector? Fedhasa thinks so as it calls for 'urgent regulation'

According to Tshifhiwa Shivhengwa, Fedhasa’s Chief Executive Officer, Airbnb would be a 'valid segment' of the country’s tourism industry, provided the hospitality platform abides by a strict set of industry rules and regulations. This is despite the fact that Airbnb boosted the South-African economy with an estimated 2.4 billion ZAR in 2016.

Marriott's Director of Sales, Marketing and Revenue at Protea Hospitality Group Danny Bryer told Traveller24 “in some markets, hotels have been losing reservations because of the growing presence of Airbnb accommodation in the location”.

SEE: Sharing Economy debate: Is Airbnb really intimidating the hotel industry?

Bryer also says that with an increase in inbound tourists in 2015 (the same year Airbnb began in South Africa), the “hotel industry had fallen behind on new hotel construction in the bigger centres like Johannesburg and Cape Town”.

“It is possible that, at least to some extent, Airbnb accommodation filled the gap, and this is to be welcomed since it means that the local hospitality industry was able to deliver on the need for accommodation,” he adds.

What our readers think

Last week Traveller24 asked our readers if they think Airbnb should be regulated in South Africa. After 20,504 votes, almost three quarters of the votes are against the regulation of Airbnb.

Seventy-two percent of readers (14,702 votes) think that Airbnb should not be regulated in SA as they believe Airbnb attracts tourism and stimulates the economy.

Only 28% of the readers (5802 votes) are in support of regulation of Airbnb, agreeing that it is inflating house prices and intimidating the hotel industry.

'Embrace the phenomenon and stop complaining'

The secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organisation recently stated that "hotel chains need to stop complaining about companies such as Airbnb and instead embrace the accommodation phenomenon". 

Minister of Economic Opportunities in the Western Cape Alan Winde seems to have taken the same tack. Speaking during his budget briefing in March, he says unlike in Germany and France, the "platform will not be slowed down in Cape Town". 

Winde says SA has become the first government that “requires all proposed legislation to be subjected to a Regulatory Impact Assessment before it is passed. In our province, we will not tolerate businesses being slowed down by unnecessary regulations".

“In the past month alone, the number of Airbnb properties in our region have climbed from 16 000 to 17 500. That’s an additional 1 500 households making an income from their spare rooms.

“We know that there are regulatory concerns around Airbnb, a fact which is common for most new technology companies. We are eager to become a place of learning for disruptors, and are active in engaging these players to ensure they are able to thrive, while meeting good practice standards,” says Winde.

In the Western Cape, both Airbnb and Airbnb Experiences have taken off and Cape Town currently has the largest number of listings in Africa.   

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