Platforms including Airbnb have agreed a data sharing partnership with Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Commission.
It was hoped that the move would lead to more cohesive legislation across Europe, at a time when the segment was being accused of having a negative impact on housing and feeding over tourism.
The agreement was signed by Airbnb, Booking, Expedia Group and Tripadvisor.
Commissioner Thierry Breton, responsible for Internal Market, said: “Tourism is a key economic activity in Europe. Short-term accommodation rentals offer convenient solutions for tourists and new sources of revenue for people. At the same time, there are concerns about impact on local communities.
“For the first time we are gaining reliable data that will inform our ongoing discussions with cities across Europe on how to address this new reality in a balanced manner. The Commission will continue to support the great opportunities of the collaborative economy, while helping local communities address the challenges posed by these rapid changes.”
Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, responsible for Economy, said: “This important milestone will enable Eurostat to support public authorities around Europe that seek data on collaborative short-term accommodation services. They will in the future be able to use these newly available data for informed policymaking. For the first time, Eurostat will cooperate directly with industry to make reliable data covering the entire EU available in a coherent manner”.
Shared data will include the number of guests using short-term rental platforms and the number of nights booked. Data will be shared on a quarterly basis and the EC said that the privacy of citizens, including guests and hosts, is protected in line with applicable EU legislation. Data will not allow individual citizens or property owners to be identified.
Eurostat will publish data for all Member States as well as many individual regions and cities by combining the information obtained from the platforms. It was expected that the first statistics could be released in the second half of 2020.
The announcement came after Airbnb wrote to European cities in January calling for the creation of a digital watchdog as part of the EU’s proposed Digital Services Act.
“This landmark partnership will help ensure that cities have the information they need to regulate home sharing effectively,” said Chris Lehane, Airbnb Senior VP of Global Policy and Communications.
“Our work is informed by regulations across the region and collaboration with more than 500 governments and organisations across the world. We believe that platforms have a responsibility to work with governments and our commitment to cities is long-term and ongoing. We hope this data will be a vital resource for governments at all levels as we continue to collaborate on effective regulations that work for everyone.”
A survey conducted by Eurostat in 2019 showed that 21% of EU citizens used a website or an app to arrange accommodation from another person and 8% had done the same for transport services.
The EC said: “In the tourism sector, the collaborative economy provides many exciting opportunities for citizens as consumers as well as for micro-entrepreneurs and SMEs. At the same time, its rapid development has led to challenges, particularly in popular tourist destinations. As a result, cities and other communities are seeking to strike a balance between promoting tourism, with the economic benefits it brings, and maintaining the integrity of local communities.”
Insight: Before we start thinking about what a wonderful festival of transparency this is, this is not, repeat not, a registration scheme. Take note of the privacy issues at play here and, for those of us resident in Europeland, an eternal gratitude for that.
What this data will provide are some top level numbers which may lead a number of jurisdictions to conclude that they need to get into registering those who rent their sofas and tree houses out, the better to ensure they’re forking out the right amount of tax and, critically in terms of over tourism, how many of them there are and where.
So an interesting move for sure and, in the light of the suspected wobble in Airbnb’s IPO, a pleasing indication that it still wants to be seen as playing straight and flying right. For Airbnb’s hosts, registration is still largely to be avoided, but both they and the platform need to know where they stand in terms of legislation, given that not all of them are evil party houses, but useful and functioning members of society. And for hotels, the chance to see some numbers is a chance for some fun hand wringing, which everyone enjoys.