Move to regulate Airbnbs

Draft bill open for public comment


The national government plans to regulate global hospitality service Airbnb and other home-sharing mobile applications in SA, as concerns continue to rise that they are hindering the country’s tourism sector.This according to the Tourism Amendment Bill, published on Friday April 12.The bill states that shortterm home rentals will be legislated under the tourism act.Tourism dpartment spokesperson Blessing Manale said the bill was necessary as there was currently no legislation that gave the minister of tourism the power to determine thresholds for these short-term home rentals.These could include limits on the number of nights guests could stay at an Airbnb and how much income the establishment earned.“Its purpose is to clarify who the designated authority will be to regulate on such matters and any regulatory or standard-setting process on such services – short-term accommodation in private residence.“The draft bill is open for public comments – this means that the public and stakeholders are welcome to make any comments aimed at strengthening our bill,” Manale said.Airbnb has become one of the fastest-growing online platforms globally since it was launched in 2008.The company does not own any of the real estate listings but receives commissions from every booking.In March, the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality said it wanted to regulate Airbnb, after operators raked in more than R6m during December 2018.Metro economic development head Anele Qaba said this had led to an outcry from guesthouses and bed-andbreakfast establishments.A further aspect of the new regulation is the determination of zones where Airbnbs will be allowed to operate.Port Elizabeth Metro Bed and Breakfast Association (Pembba) chair Sheena Wilmot said while Airbnb was an important and relevant platform for accommodation for many travellers around the world, there was no control over who advertises rooms.This is where Pembba has been advocating for a more level playing field.“We are in favour of regulating, but not draconian measures that will kill small businesses and mean many employees will be out of work.“As relevant players in this space, we would like to be part of the participation process.“It is our belief that this is a local government issue, and the only thing the national department should do is insist that all booking platforms need a licence/permit number from every establishment before they can be registered on their website. This includes Airbnb.”Fiona Whitfield, who previously ran an Airbnb in Walmer, Port Elizabeth, said the platform was “extremely advantageous to the tourism industry”.She said visitors to Airbnbs represented a different market to those who stayed in hotels or backpackers.

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