We’re here to build, not disrupt SA tourism — Airbnb

Airbnb isn’t a tourism industry disruptor, but an integral part of the sector that grows or shrinks together, Middle East and Africa regional lead Velma Corcoran has said.

Corcoran recently spoke to MyBroadband after tourism minister Patricia de Lille published a discussion paper to help shape government policy in the industry.

Among the items in the paper is a section titled “Embracing Technology” that mentions unregulated short-term rentals as a problem.

It proposes implementing a differentiated regulatory system and a framework for improved reporting on short-term rentals.

Crucially, it proposes thresholds for short-term rentals in line with international best practices.

It mentions that cities like London and Santa Monica have implemented limits on rental lengths ranging from 30 to 120 days.

Paris introduced a limit for owners renting primary residences to no more than 120 days per year and imposed rezoning requirements for properties being rented out for more than four months.

Corcoran said that Airbnb is in favour of regulation, provided it is well-formed.

“We actually believe regulation, if it’s simple, if it’s appropriate, and if it’s proportionate, can be a really good thing.”

However, she cautioned against rushing into creating regulations without understanding the problems you are trying to address.

She said there is currently no evidence to suggest that South Africa is struggling with the types of issues other countries have introduced regulations for, like a housing crisis or over-tourism.

“Thresholds is a measure that you bring in if you want to limit short-term rental activity for very specific reasons,” said Corcoran.

“To create regulation, you actually really need to know what you’re solving for — and that has to be done based on evidence.”

Towards that end, Airbnb signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Tourism to collaborate on national registration system for short-term rentals.

This aims to provide transparency into the short-term rental market and obtain the data needed to develop appropriate regulations.

Regarding specific policy and regulatory proposals, Corcoran said Airbnb believes now is the right time for new rules for short-term rentals in South Africa.

“[Rules] that can enable ordinary South Africans, families, to continue hosting in their homes and use this as a way to make some extra money,” Corcoran stated.

“But then put in place more stringent measures potentially for those who are considered bad actors or who are more professional.”

Corcoran also asked whether existing regulations governing tourism should be simplified.

“Platforms like Airbnb take away some of the need for lots of regulation,” she said.

“Why do you want to regulate?” said Corcoran.

“You want to make sure the place is safe; the place is clean; the place is of high quality. Airbnb has got a review system that really looks at quality, trust, safety on the platform. Do you really need in-person checks if the platform already allows for that?”

Now read: Afristay and Airbnb say travel in South Africa is back in a big way

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We’re here to build, not disrupt SA tourism — Airbnb