ITB 2016: UNWTO calls for ‘level playing field’ with sharing economy firms

ITB 2016: UNWTO calls for ‘level playing field’ with sharing economy firms

Governments should “ensure consumer rights” in the peer to peer economy and “a level playing field” for all businesses, according to the head of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

Taleb Rifai, UNWTO secretary general, said yesterday: “We can’t have some businesses paying taxes and dues to society and others not. Businesses must be treated equally.”

Addressing a ministerial round table at German travel trade show ITB in Berlin, Rifai said: “The peer to peer economy is just one of the names of this new business model that has emerged as a result of technology.

“While we welcome the benefits, and we certainly cannot fight it, we must see it ensures customers’ rights and safety and security, and we must guarantee a level playing field.”

He insisted: “This is a call for equality and fairness. Businesses should be treated equally.”

Rifai added: “We must not be deceived by the sharing economy.” He gave the example of commercial landlords with multiple properties posing as owner occupiers offering home shares on sites such as Airbnb.

Darren Huston, chief executive of the Priceline group and online accommodation subsidiary, suggested peer to peer sites such as Uber and Airbnb need to “play by the rules”.

Speaking at ITB, Huston was asked about taxi app Uber and Airbnb as ‘unicorns’ – start-up businesses valued in excess of $1 billion.

He said: “Ultimately, every business needs a sustainable business model. There will be a moment when they need to make money and, if there is no business model, they will fall apart.

“They will have to grow up and play by the rules, and they will need to make money.”

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