Skift Take

From putting up resistance against harsh rules to managing members at a national level, the European Holiday Home Association is overbooked.

Florence banned short-term rentals in its historic center, guests spent over 150 million nights in short-term rentals this summer in Europe, and its cities fear overtourism.

This is the gist of the top headlines recently for short-term rentals in Europe.

In the second quarter of 2023, guests stayed over 150 million nights in short-term rentals in Europe booked through platforms like Airbnb, Booking, Expedia Group, or TripAdvisor. This was an increase of 15.8% compared to the same period last year, according to the latest data from Eurostat. 

Skift spoke to Viktorija Molnar, acting secretary general at the European Holiday Home Association, which advocates for the short-term rental industry in the European Union in Brussels on some of these issues. Molnar led the interview with, “Short-term rentals are scapegoats. They are absolutely to be blamed for all existing problems in the city, right?” She was referring to short-term rental critics blaming the sector for any array of civic woes.

Molnar was also the former secretary general at European Travel and Tourism Advisory Group. Below is an edited excerpt from the interview.

On Tourism

“Cities like Barcelona and Amsterdam had their motto 10 years ago to welcome everyone, promote tourism. Amsterdam had that “I Love Amsterdam” sign. They took it down; they don’t want tourists anymore,” Molnar said.

“Barcelona is also disturbed with tourists. And, all these big cities wanted to welcome so many tourists, but what happened was that they became so famous that everybody wants to go there, and there was poor management of the tourism masses.”

On National Regulations By Member States

“I’m concerned about the national, local short term rental rules. Because whenever there’s a new election in member states, short term rentals are always being attacked,” Molnar said.

“Because it is easy for politicians to show that they’re doing something, and if I may say so, it’s very easy to ban … but if you ban it, you have to justify it, and these rules are usually not following the principles.”

Molnar cited the city of Brussels as an example where EHHA filed a complaint to the EU commission on what she characterized as the overly stringent and unjustified short-term rental regulations. She felt these rules were excessive, akin to hotel regulations, even for private individuals looking to engage in short-term rentals. The complaint led to the European Commission initiating an infringement procedure, indicating that the rules were disproportionate and unwarranted. Belgian authorities are currently in negotiations to address this issue.

On the Hotel Lobby in Europe

“We have people working in the housing ministries, or ministers themselves who come from the hotel sector,” Molnar said.  “So hotels were always there. As such, it was nearly the only option to stay if you traveled somewhere. They have their good connections and, and their lobbies are strong.”

On Upcoming Regulations

“One significant regulation pertains to the collection and sharing of short-term rental data, expected to be adopted by December. However, our work will not conclude upon adoption, as the implementation phase will require continued effort,” Molnar said.

Additionally, the EHHA is involved in the “VAT in a digital age” initiative, which addresses Value Added Tax (VAT) implications. This proposal raises concerns as it affects the VAT framework significantly. It requires online platforms to charge a value added tax on top of the price. Molnar added that this change disrupts the VAT system, as it pulls private individuals and small businesses into the VAT framework, potentially raising prices on online platforms. 

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Tags: coronavirus recovery, Europe airports, european commission, european holiday home association, future of lodging, Travel Trends

Photo credit: The interior of an Airbnb property in Italy. Source: Fattoria la Maliosa/Flickr Fattoria la Maliosa / Flickr

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