“For us, a European regulation of short-term rentals is essential” – CVBJ
The at 07:54 CET
Chris Lehane He is one of the most influential executives at Airbnb, the world-renowned rental platform, where he serves as Vice President of Global Public Policy and Communications. With a long professional career as a lawyer and spokesperson in the White House (in the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore), his challenge now is to defend the positive impulse to the real economy that this platform generates in more than 220 countries. among those who operate. Through a videoconference, Lehane comments with ‘El Periódico de España’ on his vision of the tourism sector in the country, rental prices and European regulations.
Airbnb’s profit soared 280% in the last quarter of the year ($ 834 million). What role does Spain play in these figures?
Last week we released our financial results for the third quarter of the year and despite the pandemic it was the most successful, but the most important thing is what we create: there are over 100 billion of Airbnb hosts around the world. Spain is historically in the top 5 of the world markets, I believe that with over 160,000 hosts that we have in the country, we are exceeding pre-pandemic data. The coronavirus has accelerated a huge change in the tourism industry and revolutionized travel. Now we see how these global changes are moving to Spain. First, the percentage of users who opt for long stays (28 days or more) is increasing, by around 20%. That means they’re not just going to visit a city and take a selfie for Instagram. They go to a neighborhood and live there for a while. The second thing we see is that the world has redistributed and tourism has dispersed. In the last quarter, employment in rural areas increased by 40%. While Madrid and Barcelona accounted for around 26% of trips to Spain, it is now below 17%. The trips spread across the country. The third point is that travel has been reoriented and organized much more according to families and less towards business, which has benefited teleworking. In this whole travel revolution, Spain is incredibly well positioned because it has very attractive natural attributes. We have an incredibly strong host community in the country, which means Spain participates in the global travel economy not just as a service provider, but as a business owner. This goes directly to the country’s GDP, which also benefits more from long stays in the economy. There are a lot of opportunities in Spain. Technologically, Madrid is also very well positioned to become the technological hub of Southern Europe, which can help a lot.
Madrid and Barcelona have been two of the cities where your business has grown the most historically, do you now see many differences between the two with their policies?
I love and respect both cities, but they are very different. It’s a bit like San Francisco and Los Angeles, they’re both in California, but they’re very different. In Madrid, they are enthusiastic and willing to work on a settlement and there is a real effort to come up with a solution that makes sense. I think Airbnb has shown that it can work very well as a government partner, the key is to find a balance like in all of Europe. In Madrid, we generated around 13,000 jobs before the pandemic and we lost 12,500 direct jobs there at that time, as well as $ 1,000 million displaced by the guests who go there each year. Obviously, with the pandemic, travel has shifted more to rural areas and less to urban areas, but there are still a lot of people interested in big cities. If you think that last year there wasn’t a lot of activity in Barcelona and most of the activity took place outside of the city. Hopefully people will see it and understand that some of the things they were talking about kept happening even though Airbnb was not there.
What would you say to people who accuse them of rising rents?
They used to say we just had a pandemic and we’re in the middle of it, but these issues persist in some of these cities, despite Airbnb’s presence being reduced because our business left. large cities and to other cities. parts of the country. I just hope that this way people take a step back and look at the facts objectively, which I think is pretty clear. Airbnb’s model is based on driving the real economy. The vast majority of our guests in Spain are people who use the houses they live in or the houses of their families and this is their way of staying in their neighborhoods and in their communities. From our perspective, not only are we adding wealth to the country, but we are also helping to keep people in their homes, neighborhoods and communities. The pandemic has been terrible in every way, but it serves to do an objective analysis of what continued to happen in cities despite Airbnb not being present. There are many housing challenges. But that said, we are committed to being good partners in helping cities strike the right balance with rents, we work and collaborate with them around the world.
What do you think of the European regulation of digital platforms and short-term rental?
The EU is working on the digital market with the Digital Services Act, and then it has a specific initiative around short-term rentals, which we have been offering for several years, so we welcome this initiative and are working closely on the process. Our thinking has always been that it is necessary to have a regulatory framework at EU level to help harmonize the different existing regulations with the theory of the single market. Ultimately, having a holistic approach that considers all the different players in the industry is essential. Our business is different from other industries because it is mainly based on people who use their own homes. However, flexibility is essential so that cities can ultimately solve some of their specific problems. Behind each city are different cultures, economies, and geographies, so make sure they have enough flexibility to accommodate local needs. But we believe that Europe, including Spain, would benefit greatly from a general framework in which we could all work. I’ll use the football analogy: Every stadium or pitch can be different, but there’s a reason the goal has to be the same size everywhere.
Another common complaint against digital giants relates to taxes. What do you think of the G7 agreement to end fiscal relocation?
I think having a regulatory framework is good for Europe, for the world and for companies like ours. However, I would also say that there are different types of tributes, like the EU and the G7. The latter has an impact on corporate income tax. Airbnb is a little different from other technology platforms in the sense of the economic activity it generates, so in the end we are also a new source of income for cities. We support the G7, but you also need to consider how taxes on travel and tourism can affect. In particular, I think about how a city generates income for the country through travel and tourism. I’m not sure there is a digital platform in the world that generates a more direct economy for Europe. Ultimately, there are different business models. Some digital platforms extract profits from one country by taking them to another location, which means they withdraw economic activity from Europe or Spain. This is not the Airbnb model. We bring money from other parts of Europe directly to Spain, which would not have been the case otherwise.
What is your strategy for continuing to grow in Spain?
Spain has enormous potential and Madrid can become a model city for this, in terms of thinking and functioning to get there. Tourism is a natural resource, but you have to make sure that people or owners benefit from it as well. Spain has a great opportunity to remain one of the top five tourist destinations in the world, but you need to think a lot about its impact on the economy and the local population. For example, I think that in Spain more than half of our guests are women, which generally does not happen in all economic sectors. We must also think from a climate point of view and create a model of sustainable tourism. With all this I mean our aspiration is to work with different cities and countries so it is essential that they have a strategy for this sector. At the end of the day, that creates a lot of jobs and a lot of economic activity. We really want to partner with countries and cities and support this growth.