Short-term accommodation services: understanding the market to act wisely

It’s impossible to deny it short term accommodation has brought certain benefits to cities and towns across Europe over the past decade. They enabled many people to travel and explore the continent, and provided a means for locals to have an occasional source of income.

However, over time, the growth of the sector has also created multiple problems, the most obvious of which is the much lower supply of long-term housing for residents. Lisbon is one of the cities that experienced an explosion in tourism during the 2010s and, consequently, a rise in popularity of short-term accommodation.

Currently, there are approximately 13,000 listings on Airbnb in the city of Lisbon and, most interestingly, 77.1% of hosts have multiple listings, often three or more. This may indicate that short-term accommodation has become an organized business model that benefits real estate companies more than individual owners. In Spainthe number of accommodation available 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 in Europe and around the world have started drafting or even implementing regulations on short-term accommodation. The European Commission (EC) proposal tackles what is probably one of the most damaging problems. By having more transparency about who owns or manages a property, competent authorities will have important data to analyze and use, and new laws and regulations can be written taking into account the specificities of each location. It will be up to the European Parliament to cross-check the proposal. Quantitative and qualitative data to act wisely, whenever necessary. This increase in transparency will also likely be a benefit for the apps and platforms that host these short-term rental offers, as it will be easier for them to ensure that the hosts using their services comply with local legal requirements, which has the potential to lead to increased consumer trust in these platforms. Some of these service providers have already expressed their support for the EC proposal.

Naturally, it is important that these measures also ensure that private data belonging to users remains private. This is vital, given that it has the potential to pass through several places before reaching public authorities. Fortunately, the EC has also addressed this issue and measures will be put in place to protect the data. However, these must be carefully and regularly reviewed.

It is crucial that businesses in general and those in the hospitality sector in particular have all the conditions to grow and succeed, especially given what this sector has been through during the pandemic. More burden or a disproportionate commercial framework is not the solution. However, this should not come at the expense of those who live in the cities and towns tourists want to visit, and having the tools in place to prevent this from happening is essential. This proposal from the European Commission is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction.

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