The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has condemned the theft of an £8,000 Banksy art print from a rented Airbnb flat as further evidence of the group's lack of data transparency and regulation of users.
Jones and Clarke claimed that when they had complained Airbnb had simply told them to fill in an online insurance form, and had been unable to help police trace the perpetrator, they told newspaper the London Evening Standard.
The news comes just weeks after the chief executive of the BHA, Ufi Ibrahim, called home-exchange websites such as Airbnb "a danger" to the public during a House of Commons committee. In response to this latest row, the BHA told The Caterer that the "lack of data from the online platforms [such as Airbnb] themselves is of concern, as it limits the possibilities for local government… to enforce health and safety."
A spokesperson today added: "The BHA champions better standards across the tourism industry and celebrates customers having a wide choice of places to stay. However, customers should receive the same basic health and safety protection in home-sharing venues as they would receive elsewhere in the industry. We acknowledge Airbnb's new information about property damage but request that Airbnb make further transparent disclosures to the relevant authorities on the numbers of landlords listing multiple properties which are registered on its site in London."
Yet Airbnb has hit back at the BHA, calling its complaints "baseless and inconsistent with the facts". A spokesman added: "Hospitality is a large, growing market. There is enough room for everyone and we strongly believe we are helping more people to travel, which is good news for everyone."
Airbnb said that 90% of UK hosts share their primary or secondary home on the site, meaning they are subject to building regulations, and that hosts are required to follow local laws and safety steps such as installing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. The group's website also claims that it verifies users' details when they sign up, and offers insurance of up to $1m (£689,960) for hosts.
Commenting specifically on the print theft, Airbnb told The Caterer: "We have zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour and have removed this guest from our platform. We are assisting the police with their investigation and providing the host with our support."
It added: "In 2015 alone, 35 million guests stayed on Airbnb worldwide, and there have been only 540 cases of significant property damage reported to us globally. That represents fewer than 1 in every 50,000 guests worldwide."
The Met Police today confirmed that the Banksy crime appeared to have taken place between 11-14 December, and said that lines of enquiry were still being followed but that no arrests had yet been made.
Despite this, Dominic Jones stated that he and Clarke had been disappointed with Airbnb's response to the theft, saying that the system is built on "such a thin veneer of trust".
He said: "If you rent someone's flat through Airbnb, you've given your name, address and bank details, all your information. It makes me really angry that someone can do something this blatant and walk away scot-free."
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