Sharing economy tourism firms such as Airbnb should be subject to the same regulations as other businesses in the sector.
New tourism minister Rebecca Pow has been warned by trade associations that action is needed to ensure the UK’s global reputation as a world-class destination is maintained.
More than half of the organisation’s members called for tourism businesses in the sharing economy to be subject to greater regulation and more specifically, the same regulations as other UK tourism providers.
When pressed further, almost three quarters (71%) of members said further regulation would provide more protection for customers and create a level playing field for all UK companies in the tourism sector.
The Tourism Alliance wrote to Pow earlier this month to stress the need to ensure that the UK’s tourism products and services remain safe and legal.
Jointly signed by nine UK tourism associations and businesses including UKinbound, the letter urged Pow to take forward the recommendations of the 2018 Tourism All-Party Parliamentary Group inquiry into the sharing economy.
This found that many businesses which advertise on sharing economy platforms do not comply with legislation aimed at protecting customers.
The letter addressed the need to hold an industry roundtable and a consultation to determine the most appropriate mechanism for ensuring regulatory compliance and the safety of consumers.
UKinbound CEO Joss Croft said: “We will always welcome those innovations in the tourism industry that provide our visitors with greater choice.
“The majority of sharing economy businesses have brought to market some fantastic new product and present an exciting new way to travel, but it’s only fair that all businesses in the UK tourism industry – including those in the sharing economy – are regulated as appropriate so that customers rights and more importantly their safety are protected.
“The global tourism industry is very competitive and we need to continue giving international visitors a reason to choose the UK over other destinations.
“If our industry doesn’t operate on a level playing field, we can’t guarantee quality which will jeopardise the UK’s global reputation as a world-class tourism destination.
“LA, Amsterdam, Paris, have all adapted to the changing ways consumers are purchasing travel and the UK needs to do the same.”
UKinbound’s latest business barometer results, based on activity in March and April, revealed that bookings/visitor numbers/customer orders were the same or higher than the same period last year for 74% of businesses. Yields were also the same or up for 78% of companies.
Almost a third (31%) of members said the US was their leading growth market, while 22% said Germany was the most in decline.
Industry confidence also dropped with 49% of businesses stating they are confident about the upcoming 12 months, down 10% on November/December 2018. This is still higher than the 40% figure from September/October.