The Federated Hospitality Association of SA (Fedhasa) has called on the government to crack down on Airbnb – a call which has been echoed by smaller hospitality organisations.
Airbnb has seen impressive growth in South Africa, and a lot of this growth came at the expense of established bed-and-breakfasts and hotels.
These establishments argue that unregistered accommodation establishments marketed through Airbnb, should face the same regulation as the official tourism sector.
According to the registered establishments, Airbnb hosts are not regulated and can therefore undercut them because they have lower overheads.
Tourism Amendment Bill
The government has now acted on these industry calls through the Tourism Amendment Bill which was gazetted on Friday 12 April.
Through this bill, ‘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.
These thresholds can include limits on the number of nights that a guest can stay or even how much income an Airbnb host 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.
Tourism bodies have welcomed the move, saying that the regulations will level the playing field.
Airbnb said it supports clear and progressive rules that support the sustainable growth of home sharing.
“We are having productive discussions with the government, based on our experience working with more than 500 governments around the world,” an Airbnb spokesperson said.
These discussions include measures to help Airbnb “hosts to share their homes, follow the rules and pay their fair share of tax”.
Airbnb said it is growing because it reflects the way people live, work, and travel today.
“While travel on our platform accounts for less than 1 in 8 visitors to South Africa, those guests boosted the economy by R8.7 billion and helped create 22,000 jobs last year alone,” Airbnb 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.”