It is time for the sharing economy to embrace homestays in Europe

European cities are clamping down on Airbnb’s short-term empty rental accommodation in a bid to solve the lack of housing for locals and Uber is under fire due to its aggressive fare-hiking at peak times – some have said that this spells the end for the sharing economy.

Berlin’s de facto ban on short-term rentals has been called a landmark ruling that could inspire other European cities to do the same. Barcelona’s new mayor is cracking down on unregulated empty rental websites which, she fears, could drive out residents and destroy the city’s Catalan identity. Iceland has proposed imposing a business tax on those who are renting out their entire property for more than 90 days a year, in order to protect its natural landscape amidst the country’s tourism boom.

It is a well-known fact that many landlords with multiple properties all over Europe are now using home-sharing platforms in order to make a higher income, charging higher prices to tourists for nightly stays in an entire house or apartment rather than renting their properties to locals on a longer term basis at a fairer price. The Berlin ban, which has been in effect since 1 May 2016, imposes fines of up to £78,000 to those who are renting over 50% of their apartment on a short-term basis without a permit.

Homestays are at the heart of the sharing economy and I believe are the key to its future success. Being in hosted accommodation, homestays avoid the ethical objections levelled at the empty rental sites. They do not drive out residents or dilute the identity of the city, offering instead a chance for local residents to make money from their spare room and tourists to experience a fuller and richer travel experience through contact with a local.

At Homestay.com, a growing competitor to the bigger players in the online accommodation marketplace, we have absolutely no landlords listed with more than one property on our books. This is because each listing is the host’s very own home, to which they welcome guests and act as cultural ambassadors, offering insider information on their local area such as the best bars, restaurants and cultural events.

Homestay differs from other online accommodation providers by working with the locals who live and work in the destination rather than against them. With housing crises affecting so many European cities, I think it is more important than ever that we do not take away much-needed housing from the local community. The room or space rented out with Homestay.com is within the host’s home, where they live and work on a day-to-day basis, meaning that homestay guests do not take up a whole property that could be rented out to a struggling family or couple. 

I believe that homestays enrich European communities by encouraging visitors to the destination to truly get to know locals through sharing their home and life with them – in stark contrast to an impersonal empty rental experience where the visitor may not meet any local person at all during their stay. 

Within three years, over half a million room nights have now been booked through Homestay.com and the key European hubs of Barcelona, Madrid, London, Manchester, Paris and Rome all fall within the top 20 cities booked through Homestay.com. I think that British and European travellers are starting to become aware of the benefits of homestays and the empty rental crackdown is opening up the market for even more Europeans to become familiar with this new, more ethical, accommodation model.

There are plenty of examples of how homestays can benefit the local host, the guest and the local economy. Maria, a social worker and Homestay host in Kreuzberg Berlin, rents out the double room in her family home for £28 a night and benefits from this extra income that she would not otherwise have made.  She says: I myself have traveled a lot and, in this way, I want to give all the friendliness and hospitality that I have received all over the world, back to the travellers who stay with me. Brian, a Homestay guest who stayed with Homestay host, Sue, and her family in Greenhills, Dublin, said: They were so welcoming and I felt as if I was a part of their family. The food was amazing and their hospitality was humbling. It is really a guideline to what the homestay experience is all about.

In conclusion, I don’t believe that the sharing economy is over yet, I believe that it is just getting started. It is only natural that the products on offer in the sharing economy are being refined following the huge boom in popularity of many of its key players. It will be interesting to see what the future of the sharing economy is in Europe, especially in light of the Brexit referendum next week. Whatever happens, we at Homestay.com are excited about the future of the sharing economy in Europe, and the key position that homestays will take in this future.

 

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