PROPERTY NEWS - Major entities in the hospitality industry in South Africa have called for government to step in and regulate Airbnb, according to a City Press report.
Airbnb has seen impressive growth in South Africa, and local hotels are concerned that the unregistered accommodation establishments listed on the platform are taking away business from established bed-and-breakfasts and hotels.
The Federated Hospitality Association of SA (Fedhasa) called for government to crack down on Airbnb, and smaller organisations have echoed this call.
The Minister of Economic Opportunities, Beverley Schäfer, is strongly opposed to plans by the national government to regulate short-term home rental platforms like Airbnb.
The draft Tourism Amendment Bill, currently out for public comment, includes a definition of short-term home rental accommodation so as to place "thresholds" on their offering.
The Western Cape Government will be making submissions to oppose any regulations which could impact tourism revenue and affect people's private property rights. She said over two million people have made use of Airbnb alone in this country, and if regulations make it more difficult for travellers to access this kind of accommodation, they will simply vote with their wallets and go elsewhere.
"We cannot allow this to happen," she said. "The Western Cape Government is driving tourism growth and in order to develop this sector, we need a sufficient mix of hotel, B&B and home rental room nights to accommodate a wide variety of tourists and budgets.
According to Airbnb, they contributed R8,7-billion to the national economy between June 2017 and May 2018, creating jobs and opportunities for 22 000 people in South Africa.
We need to stimulate innovation and use disruptors to put tourism on steroids in this province. The draft amendments currently do not mention what the thresholds will entail, and we expect these will be contained in regulations to be released at a later date.
Any regulations that infringe on people's property rights, or impact a host's ability to earn a living, must be rejected outright."
A number of traditional hotels and bed and breakfasts are using disruptor sites to market their accommodation and generate business this way. Additionally, Airbnb is starting to offer "experiences" which allow local entrepreneurs to offer unique tourism products to travellers and earn an income. "Regulations could unintentionally impact these businesses and entrepreneurs," said Schäfer.
"The national government has already done extreme damage to this country's reputation as a tourist destination as a result of the introduction of a crippling visa regime. We cannot afford another clumsy and short-sighted mistake which could potentially harm this important sector further."
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