More data on short-term rentals needed as EU law no panacea –

The European Commission’s recent proposal on short-term rentals (STR), which emphasizes transparency measures and streamlines registration processes, is a step in the right direction, as complete data is essential for better regulate the sector,” said Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar, MEP. .

Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar is a center-right Portuguese MEP and member of the Transport and Tourism Committee. She was rapporteur for an “EU strategy for sustainable tourism” in 2021.

Like it or not, short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and Booking are here to stay, Monteiro de Aguiar pointed out, noting how peer-to-peer rental accommodations have become an important “segment” of the economy. tourism industry.

For the legislator, these platforms have brought economic benefits to both cities and rural areas. “It helps spread the economic gains across regions of the country” while creating more sustainable and responsible tourism, she explained.

However, something is missing from the picture – data. The MEP says access to data to support policy-making is badly needed in tourism, especially when it comes to short-term rentals, forcing local authorities to take disproportionate action.

At the same time, information is lacking on the social, economic and environmental impacts of Airbnb-style rental accommodation.

Everyone wants more data

Lack of data is becoming a pressing problem in managing a booming industry. According to the Commission, 25% of all tourist accommodation in the EU comes from Booking and others, with an increase of 138% in the first half of 2022.

Yet there is no clear EU-wide understanding of who owns the listings, whether the same apartments are available on more than one online platform and to what extent municipal services have access to this data in the first place.

“Legal certainty and transparency were at the heart of the demands of all stakeholders, whether accommodation providers, property managers, large and small online platforms, the hotel sector or regulators,” said Monteiro de Aguiar at EURACTIV.

As all stakeholders recognize the value of evidence-based public policies, the Commission proposal on collecting and sharing data relating to short-term accommodation rental services has been widely hailed as a necessary tool to harmonize practices across the bloc.

The regulation will define a common approach to registration procedures, on the basis of which a unique and unique registration number would be assigned to hosts and accommodations in order to ensure greater transparency and traceability.

The technology platforms will also have to automatically transmit data on their hosts to a single national entry point each month. This new digital gateway will allow platforms to automatically share information, facilitating checks to prevent illegal rentals.

No panacea

In the eyes of Monteiro de Aguiar, it is a good first step, even if it is not a panacea. She argues that the complexity and variety of local rules are not fully taken into account. Furthermore, she argues that the full force of this regulation can only work if other files already adopted are implemented effectively across the Union.

For the Portuguese legislator, this is especially true for the Digital Services Act (DSA), of which the STR proposal functions almost as a complement.

“Member state authorities must follow the rules accordingly, and where they fail to follow them, the Commission will initiate infringement proceedings without delay,” she said.

The MP also thinks that the current proposal could be improved to avoid creating a data sharing burden for all actors involved. As it stands, the text risks adding new layers of technical complexity, she says.

Professional or genuine

Another issue that the EU proposal aims to clarify is the so-called “professionalisation” of the short-term rental sector.

In a letter Written by the European Cities Alliance to Commissioners Thierry Breton and Margrethe Vestager in July 2022, mayors of municipalities such as Amsterdam and Barcelona argued that home-to-home renting has become marginal as companies with extensive portfolios own the majority of ads.

“The Commission estimates that 87% of hosts are peers and 13% are professional hosts,” Monteiro de Aguiar said, adding that it doesn’t surprise her that some owners are turning this gig into a profession – it’s just the way which the market works.

Although this is a small minority, cities point out that these “hyper-hosters” account for the majority of existing listings. In other words, data on multiple listings at EU level remains necessary to get a better picture of the sector as a whole.

Last year, Monteiro de Aguiar called for a common European data space for tourism to “provide the EU and member states with factual insight with data, allowing them to design informed strategies”.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism, responsible for issuing an opinion on the proposal, is due to start negotiations soon. However, political differences have already begun to emerge across the aisle.

“Some political groups and MEPs are trying to diminish the importance of short-term rentals on the whole tourism ecosystem, which in my opinion is a serious mistake”, concluded Monteiro de Aguiar.

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Nathalie Weatherald]

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