P2P ‘black market’ needs to be regulated, insist hoteliers

Hoteliers want regulation of the booming online ‘person to person’ (P2P) accommodation sector, claiming companies such as Airbnb form part of the ‘black economy’.

Ramon Estalella Halffter, secretary general of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels (CEHAT), told German trade show ITB in Berlin:
“People have been renting houses for years, but this is big business.

“P2P platforms are multiplying and I don’t see it as any different to an online travel agent (OTA). They are selling product. They are competing with hoteliers without any regulation.

“Spanish hoteliers understand they can’t stop this, but it needs regulation. We are against the black economy.”

He said: “The largest [part of the] black economy in Spain comes from tourism. We want regulation not only of the people who own the houses but also the platforms.”

Thomas Allemann, management board member of Swiss hotel association Hotelleries Suisse, agreed: “I would say a third of this growth is in the black economy.”

Allemann said person-to-person letting was not new but in the past: “It was regulated. Accommodation owners paid city taxes. We were comfortable [with it].

“What is new is nobody controls it. It is sold without regulation.”

Estalella Halffter suggested the boom in P2P sites had led to falls in hotel bookings and prices across Spain.
He said: “There are problems all over – in Barcelona, Madrid, the Canaries. We see a drop in prices all over.”

However, P2P platform owners hit back. Roman Bach, chief executive of 9flats.com, said: “Look, what we are doing is not hurting the hotel industry.”

Bach insisted: “It is incremental revenue – a couple with small children would not do a city trip otherwise.”
Christopher Oster, co-founder of Wimdu, suggested “40% of guests would not have made the trip if they could not stay in a rental apartment”.

Oster added: “We are talking about different customer segments.” He said: “The revenue we bring in is spent locally.”

Housetrip chief executive Arnaud Bertrand argued growth in P2P sites “reflects the price and the fact that people want freedom when they travel”.

But Allemann said: “If 40% is incremental, 60% is not incremental. There are also incremental costs for the city, for the destination.”

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