The pandemic, a blow for Airbnb

The tourist industry in Athens, as in many other European capitals, has come to a standstill, with planes grounded and restaurants, museums and archaeological monuments all closed.

ATHENS: At the foot of the Acropolis hill in the tourist district of Koukaki, the coronavirus lockdown has silenced the noise of rolling luggage from Airbnb guests.

The tourist industry in Athens, as in many other European capitals, has come to a standstill, with planes grounded and restaurants, museums and archaeological monuments all closed.

This left a huge hole in the Greek economy as it recovered from a decade of crisis.

The owners of small apartments in Koukaki, who rented them on the Airbnb platform in order to obtain income during the financial crisis, are again in difficulty.

“Reservations came to an abrupt halt,” said Romina Tsitou, Airbnb host since 2014.

“Hopefully I won’t have to rent them out long-term, but I may have to if this situation drags on,” she adds. At the moment, his two Airbnb apartments are hosting medical staff.

Stefania Dimitroula has already put her apartment up for long-term rental.

“Since the beginning of summer 2018 it was full through Airbnb, almost exclusively by foreign tourists,” the 32-year-old said, but “100% of bookings for April, May and June have been cancelled.” .

Being unemployed, she had no other choice.

“I was counting on the income from this apartment, around 1,000 euros per month, to compensate for the loss of my job,” she explained, expressing her pessimism about the summer season, which the Greek government hopes to relaunch on July 1.

Long-term rentals are becoming “a major trend”, according to Patrick Tkatschenko, real estate agent in Athens.

“Airbnb is taking a huge hit,” he told AFP.

– Airbnb is reducing staff but will adapt-

The “hard hit” US home-sharing platform announced on Tuesday that it would cut a quarter of its workforce, or some 1,900 people worldwide.

“We are collectively living through the most heartbreaking crisis of our lifetimes,” Airbnb co-founder and chief executive Brian Chesky said in a blog post.

This year, the San Francisco-based company’s revenue will be “less than half” the 2019 figure, and Chesky admits he doesn’t know when tourists will return.

Yet many believe that holiday apartments, rather than hotels, have a future as safe havens away from the crowds.

Enrique Alcantara, president of Apartur, the federation of holiday apartment owners in Barcelona, ​​predicts an 85% drop in turnover for 2020.

However, he predicts that holiday apartments “will adapt more easily to the new times ahead, to the new needs of tourists, particularly in terms of security”.

In Athens too, despite the steep drop in holiday bookings, there is still a glimmer of hope.

“Tourists will benefit from private apartments to feel safer compared to hotels where they will have to interact with more people,” Stratos Paradias, president of the Greek Landlords’ Federation and the International Union, told AFP. owners. .

He also thinks apartments that manage to stay on the short-term rental market will bounce back “faster than elsewhere” because “Greece is considered one of the safe countries thanks to the way it has handled the pandemic. of Covid-19”.

– Stick to short-term rental –

In Barcelona, ​​the Sybille Campagne seasonal rental calendar is empty.

“For July-August, all reservations have been canceled,” explains the 43-year-old Frenchwoman.

Nevertheless, she does not plan to remove her apartment from the Airbnb platform because it represents 80% of all her reservations.

Juan Quilis, a 35-year-old telecommunications technician who owns an apartment in Seville, is also sticking to short-term rentals for now.

“I’m not too worried at the moment, because I have a savings cushion, but if I see that it doesn’t work out, I’ll put my apartment up for long-term rental. As a last resort.”

In France, Airbnb expects to see its reservations return quickly thanks to its local clientele, the French being particularly fond of staycations.

Aurélien Perol, communications director for Airbnb in France, expects last-minute bookings to increase as lockdowns lift.

Meanwhile in Amsterdam, vacation rentals soared in mid-April and have since fallen, according to local newspaper Het Parool.

– “The purge is necessary” –

Research by Spitogatos, Greece’s most popular online property ad network, found a sharp increase in apartments offered for long-term rental in mid-April, accounting for 30% of the market in central Greece. Athens.

Spitogatos CEO Dimitris Melachroinos believes the long-term rental sector will continue to grow as it will be seen as “a safer option”.

This new shift in the real estate market will also lead to a necessary regulation of the sector.

“The practice of short-term rentals has gotten out of control in Athens in recent years. The purge caused by the COVID-19 crisis is necessary,” says Paradias.

In Koukaki, the number of short-term rentals exploded between 2017-2019, from 360 to 1,150, according to AIRDNA, which analyzes rental platforms like Airbnb. As a result, property prices have almost doubled, posing problems for local apartment seekers.

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