Tourism as risk unless regulators crack down on disruptors like Airbnb, claims Abta

Tourism as risk unless regulators crack down on disruptors like Airbnb, claims Abta

Abta Chairman Mark Tanzer

The head of leading UK travel association Abta made its most pointed attack on the emerging sharing economy in travel this week, demanding existing regulations be enforced to protect destinations.

Speaking at the annual Travel Matters conference in London, Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer, warned some destinations risk overcrowding because of the influx of visitors opting for alternative accommodation.

And Abta chairman Noel Josephides, who in 2014 described the sharing economy as “another name for the…black economy, but presented in a very clever and sympathetic way” also demanded more regulation.

Tanzer said: “It is not regulation that is the problem – it is regulations that are badly enforced, so the good guys play by the rules and the bad guys don’t.

“I would make a plea for proper enforcement of regulations.” Instead, he said: “We’ve seen the Department for Business radically weakened in numbers.”

The government announced in April that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which will develop and enforce the new Package Travel Regulations, is poised to lose 4,000 staff.

Tanzer added: “Overcrowding in key destinations is becoming pressing an issue. Without controls, we know tourism can kill tourism.

“At some point we have to start developing mechanisms to manage tourism in some destinations. By its nature, travel needs regulating and it needs co-operation between countries.

“New York is taking action to regulate apartment lettings on Airbnb. City centre areas need regulation. Hotels need licences. Other areas need to be addressed – health and safety, taxes and so on.

“We can see the strain on facilities of a city like Barcelona and on its citizens.”

Josephides added: “The disruptors would not be so disruptive if they were regulated the same as the legacy industry. If we want to consider ourselves a mature, responsible industry we must ensure a strong and fair regulatory system.”

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