Airbnb “in discussions” with government amid new regulations

Home-sharing platform Airbnb says that it is having “productive discussions” with the South African government about its operations in the country, following a move by the Department of Tourism to regulate the group and other platforms like it.

The Tourism Amendment Bill, gazetted on Friday (12 April) makes it clear that ‘short-term home rentals’ will now be legislated under the Tourism Act in South Africa.

Under the amendments, the minister of tourism will have the power to specify certain ‘thresholds’ when it comes to Airbnbs in South Africa, which could include limits on the number of nights that a guest can stay or even how much income an Airbnb earns.

According to the department, this would ensure that “everyone gets their fair share”, and that both private users of Airbnb and hotel groups get to enjoy a shared economy.

The department also plans to give more oversight to local government when it comes to zoning and where an Airbnb may be located.

The plans for regulation have faced some backlash, particularly from free market groups and home owners making use of the Airbnb platform. The regulations have been described as being potentially uncompetitive for removing choice from the market.

However, tourism bodies have welcomed the move, saying that the regulations will ‘level the playing field’, by making sure that Airbnbs air beholden to at least some of the same rules that hotels and other registered hospitality companies ascribe to.

Airbnb said that it supports rules and regulations in the markets it operates, provided they are clear and progressive. It also said it supports the sustainable growth of the home-sharing market.

“We are are having productive discussions with the government, based on our experience working with more than 500 governments around the world, on measures to help hosts share their homes, follow the rules and pay their fair share of tax,” a spokesperson said.

Airbnb said that it is experiencing its current levels of growth because it reflects the way people live, work and travel.

“While travel on our platforms accounts for less than one in eight visitors to South Africa, studies show those guests boosted the economy by R8.7 billion and helped create 22,000 jobs last year alone,” it said.

“This healthy and sustainable tourism model – with hosts also keeping up to 97% of the price they charge to rent the space – is transforming local economies and makes Airbnb fundamentally different to businesses that take money out of the places they do business in.”

Read: Government to regulate Airbnb in South Africa

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Airbnb “in discussions” with government amid new regulations