The noose has tightened for short-term rentals within European territory, i.e. “Airbnb” and other well-known platforms. The aim of the new three rules from the European institutions is to promote more sustainable tourism, as the Commission says the short-term rental market has seen a rapid expansion in recent years, linked to the expansion of online platforms. According to the Europeans, although the variety of accommodation solutions, such as private properties rented out as hospitality accommodation, can have a positive effect on tourism, its exponential growth has caused problems, with implications of course for Cyprus. The Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on the proposal in November 2023 and the measures include the host registration procedure, more security for users and data sharing.
According to the European Parliament, the lack of available accommodation in popular tourist destinations, increased rental prices and the overall impact on the sustainability of certain areas are some of the negative impacts on local communities, while the increase in short-term accommodation rentals raises several challenges for Europe’s cities. They are summarised under 3 main pillars of challenges, with the need for more transparency, regulatory challenges and urban development concerns.
Asked by “K” to comment on the key points, the Director General of STEC, Chrisemily Psilogeni, said that, it is clear that the rapid increase in the number of self-catering accommodations across Europe is of particular concern to EU decision-makers. She noted that similar concerns should also be present in Cyprus where significant issues have also arisen.
“For us, the main one concerns the existence of unequal competition with hotels. This is an issue that we raised before the President of the Republic during our recent meeting, who instructed the Ministry of Tourism to speed up the consultation process for the amendment of the relevant legislation to submit it to the Council of Ministers within January and to be voted on within the first quarter of 2024,” Psilogeni told K.
The Director General of STEC hopes that the specific timelines will be met while indicating to the newspaper that, among the recommendations submitted by STEC over the years are the following. Firstly, she said, the leasing of property should only be allowed for a specific period, which should not exceed a specific period on an annual basis, adding that, similar regulations are applied in other European countries. Secondly, in specific areas, or even cities where residents have difficulty in finding houses or apartments for long-term rental, local authorities should have the right to prohibit short-term rental of property. Thirdly, an overnight stay fee should be paid to local authorities. Fourth and lastly, Mrs. Psilogeni indicated that regular checks should be carried out to ensure that health and safety regulations are being implemented.
The three measures
In November 2022, the European Commission presented a proposal to provide greater transparency in the short-term rental sector and support public authorities to promote sustainable tourism. The Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on the proposal in November 2023 and the measures include, as mentioned above, the registration of hosts. The agreement sets out a simple online registration procedure for short-term rental properties in EU countries where required. After completing this process, hosts will receive a registration number that will enable them to rent out their property. This will facilitate the identification of hosts and the verification of their details by the authorities.
Secondly, it includes more security for users. Online platforms will be required to verify the accuracy of property details and will also be required to carry out random checks. Authorities will be able to stop registrations, remove non-compliant registrations or fine platforms if necessary.
The third involves data sharing. To obtain data from platforms on host activity, Member States will create a single digital entry point to help local authorities understand rental activities and improve tourism. However, for micro and small platforms with an average of up to 4,250 registrations on average, a simpler data-sharing system will be put in place.
Before it enters into force, the provisional agreement must be approved by the Council and Parliament and then Member States will have 24 months to implement it. The Parliament’s Internal Market Committee will vote on the provisional agreement in January 2024.
547 million deductions
According to the Europeans, a total of 547 million bookings for overnight stays in the EU in 2022 were made through four major online platforms (Airbnb, Booking, Expedia Group and Tripadvisor), meaning that more than 1.5 million visitors per night stayed in short-stay accommodation.
The highest number of visitors in 2022 was recorded in Paris (13.5 million visitors) followed by Barcelona and Lisbon with over 8.5 million visitors each and Rome with over 8 million visitors.