The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has called for a re-definition of sharing economy businesses such as Airbnb as “new platform tourism services”.
The UNWTO, which represents the tourism ministries and national tourism organisations of 157 UN member countries, launched the initiative at German travel trade show ITB with secretary general Taleb Rifai declaring: “We need a fair playing field and safe, secure product.”
Rifai said: “The name is important. It’s not sharing. It’s business. It’s a service provided through digital platforms.”
Research among UNWTO members suggests widespread concern, with 85% asserting the importance of consumer protection and 87% of “fair competition” in regulation of platforms such as Airbnb.
John Kester, director of the UNWTO tourism market trends programme, said: “We need to distinguish between exchange without an economic transaction – sharing opinions such as on Tripadvisor – and exchange with an economic transaction, which is a business and should be regulated as such.”
He promised the full results of the research later in the year.
The city of Vienna brought in legislation requiring accommodation platforms to provide hosts’ data to the city authorities last month.
Klemens Himpele of the Vienna municipal department of economic affairs said: “The legal framework is easy for the platforms in Vienna. But there is a huge difference between the number of flats rented out and the number paying tax, which is a small amount per night.
“We need to have control of the collection of tax so we can check the tax is paid.”
He queried the Airbnb marketing slogan ‘Live like a local’, saying: “That is not true. You live like a tourist.”
Himpele insisted: “We need the data. If the platforms don’t apply the law, we’ll fine them and they can go to court.”