World Cities Clip Airbnb’s Wings

Has the darling of the sharing economy flown too close to the sun?

It has been a torrid few months for Airbnb, which has been hit with a volley of restrictions from legislators in cities around the world and a severe slap on the wrist from the European Union over its pricing policies.

Just a year ago the possibilities looked limitless for the poster child of the sharing economy, as we reported on its new ‘Trips’ platform, and estimated US$300 million move into the luxury market, and plans to expand into flights and even grocery delivery.

A sign at an apartment building in Tokyo displays a ban on Airbnb rentals at the complex. ©Reuters

The outlook today isn’t so bright. A stormy 2018 has seen a string of restrictions imposed on the online room-sharing service in cities across the world, followed in July by a stern admonishment from the EU.

It also fell victim to what it called ‘bellhop politics’ in New York in July, as council members voted to require Airbnb to hand over the names and addresses of its hosts in the city.

As concerns mount that Airbnb is fuelling rising rental prices in many cities, we can expect more of the same in the month and years to come.

While the regulatory battles are likely far from over, Airbnb is nothing if not resilient. It launched its premium ‘Airbnb Plus’ service in 13 cities around the world in February and is stepping up plans to go public in 2019. Exactly where it settles in the global hospitality space, however, remains to be seen.

Here are some of the most serious setbacks for Airbnb so far this year: 

January

  • Amsterdam to half limit for Airbnb rentals to 30 days per year.
  • San Francisco Airbnb listings halved as new short-term rental laws come into force.

March

  • Berlin lifts its Airbnb ban, but with severe restrictions in place.

April

  • Paris officials seek to have a further 43,000 unregistered listings removed.

June

  • Officials in Sydney plan to impose a 180-day cap on the number of days empty properties can be rented out.
  • More than 48,000 Airbnb listings removed in Japan after new legislation.

July

  • New York votes to require Airbnb to hand over names and addresses of its hosts.

August

  • EU accuses Airbnb of non-compliance with its price transparency rules.