A group of MPs is considering recommending the statutory registration of all visitor accommodation in the UK, in order to put “sharing economy” businesses like Airbnb on a level playing field with hotel operators and other accommodation providers.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Tourism indicated that it was considering the recommendation in its interim report on the sharing economy, released earlier today.
Its inquiry, which has been running since 2016, looks at the benefits that can be derived from the sharing economy business model, while also trying to reduce any adverse impacts.
The likes of Airbnb have previously come under fire from the hospitality sector, with the British Hospitality Association (now merged with ALMR to create UKHospitality), alleging that it “enables rogue landlords” and is “contributing to the housing shortage in London”.
The APPG’s interim report, timed to coincide with the start of English Tourism Week, said that all businesses offering accommodation in the visitor economy, whether existing ones or new ones, should compete on a level playing field.
In its report, the MPs said one potential solution was a “statutory registration scheme for all accommodation businesses, regardless of the type of accommodation provided”.
The report added that such a scheme could work in the same way that premises that sell food and drink are already registered, through an implied consent process whereby the completion of an online registration form provides consent to undertake the activity.
The report said: “The benefits of such a scheme being that it would provide transparency regarding the location of all visitor accommodation premises and allow enforcement authorities to target what resources they have towards inspecting those that they deemed to be the highest risk.”
The APPG said it would consider the idea further in its final report, which is due later this year.
Commenting on the APPG for Tourism ‘s interim report, its chair Gordon Marsden MP said: “We have endeavoured to look strongly at the issues of accommodation safety and legal protections, as well as at the grey areas of responsibility between platforms such as Airbnb and others and the hosts to visitors.
“We have also touched on the potential for a registration scheme which we have heard advocated, as well as the impact on those affected as neighbours to properties participating in the sharing economy.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality welcomed the news.
She said: “Businesses offering businesses offering accommodation in the visitor economy, whether existing ones or new ones enabled by the sharing economy, should compete on a level playing field, so steps to accomplish this are welcome.
“There are a number of areas that the Government needs to assess at the earliest opportunity. Particularly the security and safety assurances offered by sharing economy platforms and the impact of these accommodation providers on their local areas.”
The APPG on Tourism first made a call for evidence on the sharing economy in 2016, but the process was then put on hold due to the referendum and subsequent snap general election.
The inquiry was restarted this year with a series of oral evidence sessions with representatives from the sharing economy as well as from hotels, B&Bs and self-catering operators.
All party parliamentary groups have no official status within parliament and any recommendations they make will not necessarily lead to legislative change.