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Hoteliers demand level playing field as home rentals to tourists rise to 20 per cent

Peer-to-peer accommodation is currently unregulated

The absence of a level playing field with services like Airbnb is what worries hoteliers, says Tony Zahra (below right), the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association president.

The absence of a level playing field with services like Airbnb is what worries hoteliers, says Tony Zahra (below right), the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association president.

Hoteliers are up in arms over official EU figures showing that one in five people in Malta opt for peer-to peer accommodation, noting the lucrative sector has still to be regulated.

According to the president of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, Tony Zahra, while official figures continue to show that peer-to-peer accommodation services, such as the popular Airbnb platform, continue to grow in popularity in Malta and across Europe, no form of regulation is yet in place.

“Our concern is not that there are other ways of booking accommodation but that there isn’t a level playing field. Our members pay their licences and must adhere to the rules in place while others do not,” Mr Zahra told the Times of Malta.

He was commenting in the wake of fresh data showing that 20 per cent of those aged between 16 and 74 sought accommodation offered by private individuals using a website or an application.

Eurostat, the EU statistics office, ranked Malta’s rate as the fourth highest across the EU in 2016.

The majority of those booking accommodation in this way used dedicated websites and apps but other sites, including social media, were also used, Eurostat noted.

Mr Zahra said the figure proved that the practice continued to be a popular one, which meant that hoteliers had to compete with operators for whom the rules did not apply.

Our members must adhere to the rules inplace, while others do not

“Apart from the fact that this could be costing hoteliers at least 30 to 40 per cent of profits, the matter also raises concerns that, in the case of an accident, there would be chaos and the bad publicity would impact the whole sector,” Mr Zahra remarked.

The hoteliers have long called for the regulation of peer-to-peer accommodation, insisting that, as the service became more popular, it posed a threat to traditional operators.

Platforms such as Airbnb allow users to find and rent private accommodation during their travels. According to the company’s website, it has over three million listings in over 65,000 cities around the world.

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