Saturday

16th Nov 2019

Interview

Airbnb's change of heart toward Strasbourg

  • Reflection of hotels on the front of the Strasbourg train station. During EU parliament plenary sessions, all of the rooms are booked (Photo: Peter Teffer)

Alain Fontanel has done it himself - used the Airbnb platform to find accommodation. When travelling in his native country of France, or abroad, with his three children, an Airbnb apartment can be more attractive than staying at a hotel, he told EUobserver in an interview.

The vice-mayor of Strasbourg, in charge of tourism, has also rented out his own house to strangers, making use of Airbnb.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Alain Fontanel is the vice-mayor of Strasbourg, in charge of tourism (Photo: Peter Teffer)

He did not see any problem in citizens occasionally renting out their apartments through apps such as these. The real trouble is caused by owners of multiple buildings, that use Airbnb to rent out rooms throughout the year, but without any of the permits that would be required of hotels.

"There is a big difference between one owner with one apartment renting one or two months per year, and someone who has four, five apartments, renting each of them all year long," Fontanel said, adding that "it's not the same problem."

The "multi-owner", as Fontanel called them, is exercising unfair competition towards Strasbourg's hotels, while driving up housing and rental prices.

"Especially in Strasbourg, when you take the central part of the city, you have more and more Airbnb houses, and so fewer and fewer houses for people living here," the socialist politician said.

He then went on to argue that "because you have fewer families", the number of school children are dropping in the centre. "Airbnb helps to attract different types of tourism into our city, so [that is] good news," he said, noting however that "it also has side-effects that can be negative."

Airbnb cooperates, to an extent

Last year, Strasbourg changed the rules to counter those side-effects.

It is no longer allowed to rent out more than three apartments for more than 120 days a year. The city has also started cooperation with Airbnb, in an effort to apply an existing rule: if you want to rent out your building for more than 120 days a year, you need permission from the city.

"Airbnb can check how many nights [are booked] per apartment. When they see that one apartment is [booked] more than 120 nights, they will ask them [the host] to get the permission from the city," said Fontanel.

If the host cannot provide the correct documentation, Airbnb would no longer allow the user to rent through Airbnb, the company has promised the city of Strasbourg.

What the firm could also do is notify the city when a host rented out their apartment longer than the allowed limit, but "Airbnb doesn't want to do this," said Fontanel. "Because if they do this, they will lose the confidence of their clients. They protect their clients."

The vice-mayor actually agrees with Airbnb's policy to place the anonymity of its clients above informing the city of their mishandling of the rules. "It would be a problem if Airbnb was not protecting their clients."

Tourism tax

Airbnb has also started to collect tourism tax in Strasbourg, just as it has done in other European cities. The €0.55 tax for each person per night is automatically added to the price of the accommodation.

From August 2016, when the scheme started, until December 2016, Strasbourg had received around €80,000 in tourism tax from Airbnb.

But in all of 2016, hotels in Strasbourg paid €4.5 million in tourism tax. "So, in perspective it's not a lot. We expected a little more," said Fontanel. He also noted that Airbnb is not the only temporary rental platform, and that the city is also reaching out for cooperation with its competitors.

But still, Airbnb has changed its attitude, Fontanel said, because the company saw that its image was being damaged by the side-effects of the "multi-owners".

"The philosophy of Airbnb was more based on the sharing philosophy, and use your own means to share with others, and obtain a revenue from it. It's not the philosophy of doing business like a hotel without the license of a hotel."

This story was originally published in EUobserver's 2017 Business in Europe Magazine.

Click here to read previous editions of our Business in Europe magazine.

Magazine

The 'sharing economy' lacks a common definition

The sharing economy is a noticeable trend shaking up traditional sectors, but the phenomenon is ill-defined and empirical evidence about its impact is scarce.

Magazine

Share you in court

Regulatory systems were not ready for the sharing economy, and now the battle has moved from the streets to the halls of justice.

Magazine

The Business of Nature

The European Commission plans to unveil a new bioeconomy strategy on Thursday. EUobserver's third edition of Business magazine looked at the many aspects of the bioeconomy – the parts of the economy that use renewable biological resources.

Magazine

A sustainable death wish

No one can escape death. But choices over how one's body is disposed of could either lessen or increase your carbon footprint.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election

Magazine

The Business of Nature

The European Commission plans to unveil a new bioeconomy strategy on Thursday. EUobserver's third edition of Business magazine looked at the many aspects of the bioeconomy – the parts of the economy that use renewable biological resources.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  2. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  3. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  4. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  5. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  6. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  7. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  8. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us