Airbnb vows to work with governments

FIRST-TIME VISITOR. Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer Nathan Blecharczyk speaks at the Pacific-Asia Travel Association Summit at the Radisson Blu Hotel. Blecharczyk says the platform allows travelers to discover off-beat destinations. He is also visiting Cebu for the first time. (SunStar Photo)

HOME-SHARING platform Airbnb vowed to work with government regulators to build a long-term business in the cities it operates in.

Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Airbnb and the chair of Airbnb China on Friday, May 10, said that while this new paradigm of “shared economy” does not yet fit well into existing regulations, they are willing to build allies with government regulators so both parties could take take advantage and win in this age of technology disruption.

“Short-term rental is here to stay and we recognize the need to build allies with the government in building long-term business,” said Blecharczyk during the Pacific-Asia Travel Association (Pata) Annual Summit 2019 in Cebu City.

Airbnb currently lists 60,000 properties in the Philippines alone. It has six million listings in 191 countries.

But, despite its growing popularity, the home-sharing platform is facing varying forms of treatment over its operations because of legal issues such as pricing and taxes.

Japan, for instance, limits home-sharing to 180 days a year, besides requiring the hosts to register the property.

A Colliers report said that in key mature markets such as Seoul, Tokyo and Melbourne, Airbnb rates are approximately 49 percent lower than the average daily hotel rates..

In the Philippines, however, the Department of Tourism (DOT) has yet to impose an accreditation system for Airbnb operators, as the industry is still very small.

“It is not yet being prioritized,” said DOT Secretary Bernadette Puyat in past interviews.

She noted that the Philippines is still new in adopting Airbnb and that it is not yet a major industry in the tourism sector.

But the Philippine Hotel Owners Association has lobbied with the DOT to apply an occupancy tax on Airbnb hosts because they feel Airbnb locations pose unfair competition for hotels.

Colliers International noted that in Manila, hotels remain the preferred accommodation of business travelers, especially in key business hubs such as the Makati central business districts, Ortigas Center and Fort Bonifacio, while the Airbnb market competes head-on with the two- and three-star hotel segment in capturing the millennial and “staycation” market.

In Cebu, Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu president Carlo Suarez said Airbnb has its own market niche and its entry into the hospitality sector is not a threat to the industry.

“What is crucial for travelers to consider is their safety and security while availing themselves of the accommodation facilities floated in the Airbnb marketplace,” he said.

“We hope these travelers are aware of the safety, security and hygiene,” said Suarez, who is also the general manager of Cebu Grand Hotel.

But Blecharczyk said reading the profile of the property and the host carefully could be a big help.

“Setting the right expectation is a challenge. But this platform offers a unique experience to connect to the destination and individuals,” he said.

More than just providing guests with rooms to stay during their vacation, the home-sharing site said it is helping the global travel and tourism industry grow.

Blecharczyk said that while they offer travelers alternative options on where to stay, they have also led them to discover off-beat destinations or places they have not known about and are not served by hotels.

“We help spread tourism and wealth outside the popular destinations,” said Blecharczyk, adding that once local communities open up their homes for the travelers to stay, economic activities in their area begin to flourish.

This US$30-billion company built 11 years ago cited the Philippines as one of its fastest-growing markets in Asia, alongside other big neighboring economies like China, India, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.

Blecharczyk said the Philippines as a market is doing well and that he sees a big potential for the country becoming a desirable destination for travelers to explore.

It was Blecharczyk’s first time to visit the Philippines and Cebu. He said he is excited to embark on an experience in Cebu and is equally thrilled to see the local tourism spots.

Besides Blecharczyk, Airbnb was also founded by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. Airbnb is short for, a hospitality service and peer-to- peer property rental headquartered in California.


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