18 July 2018
Short term accommodation rentals and the impact of tourism’s Sharing Economy (through sites such as Airbnb and One Fine Stay) on the UK Tourism industry has been debated by MPs in Westminster, with the final report being presented this morning.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tourism presented its report that, whilst highlighting the benefits that the sharing economy accommodation businesses contribute to UK destinations; concluded that more needs to be done to protect customer safety, maintain a level regulatory playing field across the tourism industry, take into account the needs of local communities and ensure that all operators of tourism accommodation are paying the appropriate level of taxation.
The safety of guests in any short term let accommodation is a basic requirement that is of paramount importance. Consumers assume that at the very least the accommodation that they have chosen will adhere to some form of health and safety policies.
However, it was identified within the report that leading sharing economy booking platforms leave the hosts liable for compliance with regulations such as gas and fire safety before allowing them to post a property on their site and some platforms even allow hosts to list their properties despite acknowledging that they don’t provide smoke alarms, CO2 monitors or fire safety equipment.
Deborah Heather director at Quality in Tourism, the organisation responsible for the recently launched ‘Safe, Clean and Legal®™’ assessment scheme said, “we have been aware of this shortfall in safety assessments within the sharing economy for some time. This report reflects the application of disjointed compliance regulations that currently surround UK Tourism.
‘Traditional’ accommodation providers including guesthouses and hotels are held accountable by existing regulation which serves to protect customers for example Fire Safety Regulations. The sharing economy is also technically subject to these regulations however currently there is no accreditation scheme or process to hold them to account. This not only leaves the customer’s safety at risk but can also have huge ramifications to the owner of the host property should an accident occur. The recommendations issued in the report will level the playing field for the first time and hold all providers to the same standards.”
Quality in Tourism has started to work alongside the STAA (Short Term Accommodation Association) whose members include Airbnb and Home Away, implementing its simple and affordable Safe, Clean and Legal®™ assessment scheme for property agents and host properties. Quality in Tourism has also developed a series of partnership affiliations with Destination Management Organisations across the UK to encourage their members to undertake the assessment for the benefit of visitors.
Recommendations within the APPG report reflect this and suggest that ‘sharing economy accreditation schemes such as those developed between Airbnb and Quality in Tourism, are rolled-out across all properties on all sharing economy platforms.’
In a bid to make hosts more aware of their responsibilities when renting out their properties, the report also recommended that sharing economy platforms should be more transparent, making them fully aware that having paid guests in their property will affect their home and contents insurance and mortgage or leasehold agreement.