The engagement of the Tourist Office with Airbnb is not unique

Tourism boards often find themselves in a complicated position when it comes to Airbnb, and they’ve talked less about the sharing economy than about the hotel industry.

Supporting a platform like Airbnb would in many cases attract the anger of hotel partners; hotels pay taxes to municipalities while Airbnb still operates unregulated in many destinations.

But by keeping quiet about Airbnb, destination marketers sometimes fail to work with sharing economy platforms that many locals support.

Airbnb has signed memoranda of understanding with tourist boards such as Visit Denmark for data sharing partnerships, which are sometimes tied to the company’s regulatory approval in a city or location. Airbnb has also agreed to limit the number of listings available in some of the cities that have entered into such partnerships.

The dilemma for tourist offices is that many locals indeed oppose these platforms and feel like they are tearing the fabric of their neighborhoods apart. Residents of places like Barcelona protested the sharing economy in 2017.

Some tourist offices have dealt with the problems better than others. At the end of 2017, Skift reflected on the conversations and interviews we’ve had with tourism boards about the sharing economy over the past year, and what they had to say about the impact. of these platforms on their destinations.

Reactions from the inhabitants of Bruges

The Vist Bruges surveyed its local population at the end of 2016 to find out their thoughts on the impact of Airbnb on tourism in Bruges. About 60% and 70% of downtown and out-of-town respondents, respectively, said they were neutral when asked if tourists who stayed in an Airbnb rental became more of a nuisance than tourists. other tourists.

Bruges only has around 400 Airbnb rentals, said Vincent Nijs, principal researcher and project manager at Visit Flanders. “The neutral category is so important because people don’t know enough about Airbnb yet,” he said. “I spoke to policymakers in Barcelona where there are over 16,000 rentals on Airbnb and 7,000 of them are unlicensed and illegal.”

In Vienna, sharing economy platforms such as Airbnb have not triggered a reaction from residents – yet, said Michael Gigl, regional director of the Vienna Tourist Board’s offices in America. North and Australia.

“There is a growing sensitivity on the sharing economy but it hasn’t reached a level where the city doesn’t know what to do with it,” Gigl said.

The impact of Airbnb on housing

Skift’s launched its first documentary Skift Lens, “Barcelona and the challenges of 21st century tourism” in August, and one of the main themes of the video was the effect of alternative accommodation on tourism growth and the city’s housing development.

Short-term rental platforms have been criticized for causing rent increases in popular tourist areas and limiting accommodation for permanent residents. “We calculated that there are around 500,000 tourist apartments throughout Catalonia that are not regulated,” Marian Muro, former general manager of Cataluña Tourism, said in the documentary. “We did not know their characteristics, if they had the right requirements for tourists, so we created a regulation and called the houses for tourist use HUT. There were tourist apartments and we established minimum requirements.

“It was a very controversial regulation because other accommodation sectors did not perceive it well, but it allowed us to regularize 250,000 places in Catalonia,” he said. “It was something that hadn’t happened anywhere else. We created a regulation and then were very strict in its application.

Get Airbnb data

Miguel Sanz, tourism director of Madrid tourism, said the city would like to share business platforms like Airbnb to share more data to help tourism officials manage visitor growth.

“Cities themselves are not going to do it alone,” Sanz said earlier this month at a World Travel and Tourism Council forum in Madrid. “These sharing economy platforms are working for their own interests, which they are supposed to do. But as we have experienced, these platforms could improve.

Madrid is in the middle of a regulatory battle with Airbnb, and the city’s relationship with the platform has been difficult. “We need clearer guidelines on the housing and accommodation situation,” Sanz said. “Current regulations make many Airbnb properties illegal in Madrid and Airbnb and other platforms are part of the growth in tourism.”

On abusive prices

Airbnb rates often skyrocket during times of high demand such as holidays and popular events, including this summer’s total solar eclipse in the United States.

Visit Hopkinsville, the tourist office for Hopkinsville, Ky. And site of the point of totality during the eclipse, lists short-term rental accommodation on its websites as a resource for visitors to help them find accommodation at a reasonable price.

“We let people pay a fee to access our website with their ad and the rates weren’t outrageous like they were on other sites,” said Cheryl Cook, executive director of Visit Hopkinsville. “We planned to do it anyway – and we didn’t do it specifically because of sites like Airbnb – but we didn’t want visitors to get ripped off.”[[[[

The average rate for an Airbnb rental in Hopkinsville for the weekend of August 19-21 was $ 261 per night, while the average hotel rate was $ 425.

Cook said, “Some listings on our site were for hotels, some were reasonable, some were expensive.”

Mapping of approved accommodations

Venice has long had a problem with overtourism and this year the city government and tourism officials launched a campaign with the United Nations World Tourism Organization to educate visitors on how to behave properly.

One of the features of the campaign is a map of licensed accommodation that mainly includes hotels, although it is not well designed or user-friendly. While not directly mentioning Airbnb, the campaign may be an indicator of how the city views short-term rentals.

Other tourist offices also include licensed accommodation on their websites that includes both hotels and alternative accommodation.

Attract new types of travelers

Los Cabos, Mexico, conducted research this year that found 15% of visitors to the destination stayed in alternative accommodation like Airbnb and 85% in traditional hotels.

These percentages have remained stable in recent years and have not reduced hotel occupancy rates, said Rodrigo Esponda, Managing Director of Los Cabos Tourist Office. “Airbnb and other similar platforms have helped the destination by increasing the supply of destinations and accommodations,” he said. “Airbnb generally attracts millennials and tourists who typically don’t stay in hotels, which in turn increases the number of travelers the destination welcomes each year. “

Use Airbnb as a marketing platform

In May, Visit Sweden launched an Airbnb marketing campaign to promote the whole country. Through the campaign, Airbnb sought to hone its capabilities as a destination marketer.

Jenny Kaiser, president of Visit Sweden’s US office, told Skift that the organization’s work with Airbnb is a brand campaign, not a booking campaign. Visit Sweden is more interested in getting travelers to perceive the country as a place of rich and natural landscapes than in increasing the number of Airbnb bookings.

“Airbnb is the context in which we can reach our target group and it’s something that really ties into what Airbnb does,” Kaiser said. “Our joint initiative is really about spreading our message about Sweden. Visit Sweden has very high demands for growth and we need to find new and effective ways to be able to reach our target groups.

Kaiser said Visit Sweden’s Airbnb partnership was just the starting point. “We will do another initiative on another platform but the Airbnb partnership will continue,” she said. “Our future partnerships will depend on which one best suits our key markets like the UK, Germany or China.”

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