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Published on Thursday, June 23, 2016

ABTA chief warns of Airbnb-style sites 'killing' cities

An explosion of Airbnb-style businesses is threatening to destroy some cities and holiday resorts, according to ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer.

He said the unchecked growth in unregulated accommodation meant some cities were becoming overcrowded with tourists, which would kill their appeal.

Citing Florence in Italy as an example, Tanzer said there were destinations around the world that are already struggling to cope with the explosion of guests, due in part to a rise of the sharing economy and sites like Airbnb which allow homeowners to rent out their properties.

"Growth of tourism can kill tourism," Tanzer told ABTA's Travel Matters conference.

He said ABTA was working with destinations 'to try to make sure they understand that value is more important than volume'.

However, he admitted this was hard in developing countries, which found the growth in tourism hard to resist. "We will have to start as an industry managing numbers," he said.

Referring to sites like Airbnb, Tanzer added: "It is very difficult in an uncontrolled peer-to-peer environment to control numbers. Regulation needs to be developed to control them and there are other areas that need to be addressed, such as the tax contribution and health and safety."

ABTA is pressing destinations to regulate the number of peer-to-peer accommodation sites in the same way as they regulate the number of hotel rooms and holiday apartments.

"There are a huge variety of different businesses in the sharing economy from people letting out rooms in their homes to big companies and we want to find a way of working with these companies to make sure we have common standards and to make sure the customers know what they are getting and that they are aware of the risks."

However, VisitBritain director of strategy and communication Patricia Yates said the industry shouldn't try to 'crush the disrupters' like Airbnb through enforced regulation, but rather it should learn from them.

ABTA chairman Noel Josephides agreed it should not be "them and us", but he said: "The disrupters wouldn't be so disruptive if they were obliged to follow the same regulations. We need to work together."

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