Smart city

Airbnb seeks to burnish its image through sustainable tourism initiatives

  • 01 Jun

Airbnb has published a report on sustainable tourism, which goes some way towards silencing the private accommodation platform's critics by highlighting the benefits to society of its innovative approach to tourist lodgings.

A new legislative straitjacket may be about to tighten around Airbnb. On 30 May, France's Assemblée nationale (lower House of Parliament) began debating a draft bill for a new housing law, which is likely to extend to online platforms that advertise illegal letting offers legal penalties for which the owners of the accommodation in question are already liable. The Amsterdam municipal authorities have already passed local statutes to the effect that as from 2019, Airbnb-type house or flat letting arrangements will be limited to 30 days and will not be permitted at all incertain areas of the Dutch capital city. Meanwhile, in a bid to combat rapidly rising rents, a number of Spanish city councils are working on measures to make it illegal to let up to 95% of all city apartments. This therefore looks like a good moment for the San Francisco-based private lettings platform to highlight how its services are able to benefit communities around the world. Airbnb chose the OECD Forum in Paris on 29 -30 May to unveil the results of a survey on sustainable tourism which the company conducted. The report's conclusions claim that Airbnb is helping to reduce mass tourism, foster local development and promote 'healthy' tourism options. The report reveals that the majority of the accommodation – ranging from 72% to 93% depending on the destination – rented out via the Airbnb platform is situated outside the main tourist areas, thus helping to reduce crowding and congestion in city centres. This trend towards decentralized visitor accommodation is also helping business in local town areas to flourish, claims Airbnb. An analysis of 2.8 million guides drawn up by Airbnb hosts shows that half of these guides (two thirds when it comes to restaurants) recommend visiting places of interest within a maximum distance of 20 minutes from the accommodation, thus helping to promote local commerce located off the beaten track. Airbnb also underlines that fully 97% of the letting fee goes directly to the owner of the property, who is then likely to channel these resources back into the local community through household spending and medical or education fees, say the report's authors. In addition, Airbnb has also highlighted the first beneficiaries of its programme designed to foster what the company calls 'healthy' tourism – i.e. an approach to recreational travel that is sustainable, diversified and local. One example of this is Airbnb’s partnership with Swiss startup MyGreenTrip, which puts 'green-minded' travelers in touch with non-profit organisations in the destination country so they can help to clean up polluted areas. Meanwhile, in France Airbnb is focusing more on the problem of rural depopulation, with a promotional platform called Bienvenue à la ferme ('Welcome to the farm') and a partnership with the Eure-et-Loir region. All in all, Airbnb seems to be making a strong case for its ambitions, and its ability, to become a highly positive influence in the life of the city going forward.

By Aurore Géraud