‘BBC Breakfast’ this week ran a piece on the state of short-term rentals in the city of Bath. Which, in common with cities around the world, is increasingly seeing a real threat to the local housing market from the rise in unregulated and uncontrolled short-term rentals. And a threat also from outside investors coming into the market to snap up property they can then let out by the most profitable means, cutting off another route to home ownership for locals.
Those questioned in the broadcast represented the city council, and members from the other traditional hospitality providers – B&Bs and holiday lets – as well as a short-term property lettings management site. And the overriding message was that while none of this is illegal, it is especially hard for some of the most beautiful, and therefore most-visited cities in the world, to find themselves empty during the week and becoming party central at the weekend, while those born in the area have to leave to find housing elsewhere.
And we heard that, once again, everyone across hospitality is seeking the nirvana of a level playing field; where everything from taxation to health and safety, from marketing to planning permission, applies to everyone offering hospitality services to consumers – who equally must feel safe and valued during their stay.
This was further underlined this week when an Airbnb host in Melbourne is currently awaiting his fate in court after killing a guest who extended his stay and found himself unable to pay on leaving, which will see the attacker receiving a likely sentence of between twenty years and life imprisonment. Of course, not all Airbnb hosts are going to act this way! But in an unregulated sector where the ‘brand’ you are trusting is represented only by the individual standing in front of you, it is a chance not everyone wants to take.
We have ourselves spoken many times about the great opportunity the rise of Airbnb and other homeshare platforms have given our sector, in opening the consumer’s eyes to options outside traditional hotels. And that positioning serviced apartments and aparthotels as offering the bridge between the standards of safety and quality of hotels, regulated and quality-controlled, and the excitement and ‘live-like-a-local’ experience of Airbnb, should be simple to achieve.
But in the week that Booking holdings has finally disclosed the size of its homesharing listings as greater in number that Airbnb’s, only to have Airbnb declare theirs higher still, the sector is growing globally at such a rate it is hard to keep up.
Airbnb has set its sight on business travel with Airbnb Plus, and in response – perhaps in capitulation to requests from too many employees – many corporate travel buyers are adding homeshare options to their travel policies. If travellers are confident they will enjoy hotel-standard sheets and towels, and that there’s someone to meet them at the door or complain to should anything go wrong, people will likely continue to demand that the flexibility and experience of homesharing becomes a regular part of their business travel.
Now it is more important than ever that we as a growing sector, with accredited members and respecting the regulations of any hotel chain, but with an offering that is more adventurous, more flexible and more homelike than that, should be able to gain traction with consumers seeking the experience of living like a local without being killed for it! Here’s to the future – and let’s get that message out there.
james Foice, CEO ASAP