TDS16: ‘We play fair on tax’, insists Airbnb boss

TDS16: ‘We play fair on tax’, insists Airbnb boss

Airbnb’s UK boss has defended the firm’s position on taxation after being asked if it is operating on a “fair playing field” with hotels.
 
At this week’s Travel Distribution Summit Airbnb’s general manager UK and Ireland, James McClure, was asked if the firm would be “worried” if it was taxed in the same way as hotel rooms.
 
“We want to make sure there are taxes which work for both the homeowners and the city,” he said.
 
“We’ve been collecting tourism tax in places like Paris and Amsterdam and giving that to the city, and we’ve done a lot of work around income tax for the hosts.
 
“We want to make sure we’re good for cities, and we’ll do whatever we need to do to make sure it’s a fair taxation for all the people involved.”
 
He continued: “We actually push for regulation to help people understand what they can and can’t do.
 
“If you’re coming to stay with me in the place that I list it’s because me and my family are not there, it will be for a maximum 20 days of the year.
 
“The average host in the UK hosts for about 45 days a year. That means for another 320 days it’s their home – it’s a different style of business.”
 
McClure went on to highlight the growth of the hotel industry despite Airbnb’s presence.
 
“You get hotels that report no impact on Airbnb, for example the Hilton Worldwide chief executive says there’s no competition,” he said.
 
“In London occupancy for hotels has increased for the last 15 years and is forecast to increase in the next three years.
 
“Airbnb has been able to grow to 40,000 places to stay in London and hotel occupancy is still increasing.”
 
But speaking later in the day, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts’ chief digital and distribution officer, Barry Goldstein, told delegates the company is “very concerned” about the growth and impact of sharing economy businesses.
 
Wyndham “has three businesses” – hotels, vacation ownership and rental and exchange.
 
“The advent of these companies has had very different effects on different parts of the business,” said Goldstein.
 
“One of the things that as an industry we haven’t done a good job of is conscious paranoia – who’s going to come and intermediate our business.
 
“Airbnb has done that in terms of supply and pricing in big cities – we’ve seen some of that effect in city centres – but we haven’t seen it really impact our overall hotel business.
 
“It has had an impact in our vacation ownership and rental and exchange business. Airbnb’s number of stays greater than 30 days has had an impact on our long term stays.
 
“We have not seen an impact on business travel, particularly outside city centres.
 
“But in the same breath we’re very concerned about the growth and the impact on pricing it [sharing economy businesses] could present, and we are very concerned about the impact it will continue to have around our vacation ownership business.”
 
McClure said around 10% of Airbnb’s business is from business travellers.
 
“We’re looking to do much more to provide the kind of things business travellers and large corporates would want,” he said.
 
“Things like centralised dashboards so firms can understand where all their employees are.”

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