No tourists and no residents: short-term rentals have emptied our cities
The consequences of the pandemic will not be enough to return cities to their inhabitants, if we do not regulate a tourism market that is just waiting to return to the status quo ante. But normality was a problem! The solution could come from the networks of communities who propose self-regulating sustainable tourism models, like Fairbnb.coop.
Short-term rentals have depopulated the cities
A search on Airdna.co, a portal that collects data on the tourist short-term rental market, is enough to get the pulse of the phenomenon: before the outbreak of the pandemic, the number of apartments offered for short-term rentals in tourist cities had exceeded record figures. Many small owners, to supplement their income or pay the mortgage, had in fact chosen this formula, due to the prices on the real estate market that are too low to sell and the few risks that are run by renting to tourists. Then there are the large real estate investors, who are well aware of the profitability of apartments in historic centres.
The traditional tourism industry has long been on a war footing with booking platforms, deemed guilty of unfair competition. However, the boom in tourist short-term rentals is not only threatening hotel business. Rents for residential use have in fact become unsustainable for large sections of the population and, in particular for the youngest, it becomes difficult to find affordable housing to start independent life paths in the cities.
Touristification has depopulated, literally. It is one of the faces of the phenomenon globally known as gentrification: the historic centres of large cities are transformed into showcase districts for the use and consumption of tourists, perfect to be visited rather than lived, and the residents are expelled.
When the overtourism is over, cities empty out
The pandemic could change the scenarios and favour the return of cities to their inhabitants, or worsen the situation, due to the economic crisis that further limits the budget that families can allocate to housing. The de-touristification of cities caused by travel restrictions has in fact left thousands of houses empty and many landlords have decided to close their short-term rentals return to the good old long-term rentals market, but the economic crisis is undermining the income of families, and living in the city centres has become increasingly prohibitive.
A self-regulatory system for short-term rentals: the Fairbnb.coop proposal
Waiting for a regulation, which is hard to reach due to the lobbying activity of the giant platforms at European and national levels, we must deal with the tourist short-term rentals market, setting effective rules from the bottom and trying to mitigate the negative effects of mass tourism, by extending its benefits to the entire host community.
The idea of an ethical alternative to dominant platforms has been circulating for years in many European countries, and several activists, hosts and travellers have decided to join a cooperative to create a platform, Fairbnb.coop, which directly puts into practice a self-regulation policy. This consists of three key points:
- Hosts must provide proof of their regular registration with local authorities;
- 50% of the platform’s booking fees are intended to finance local community projects, chosen and managed by residents;
- In the cities and districts most affected by touristification, we apply the “1 Host, 1 House” rule: only owners who offer a single house as short-term rentals are accepted, while large real estate investors, who buy up properties in historic centres and allocate them to tourists rather than residents, are excluded.
In the pilot cities of the Fairbnb.coop project, from Porto to Venice passing through Barcelona, Marseille, Amsterdam and many other cities throughout Europe, we have gathered the convinced support of dozens of hosts, we have signed the first agreements with local administrations to ensure our transparency and we support community projects that can help residents continue to live in their cities:
projects of a social, cultural and ecological nature, but also in support of health personnel working in the front line in the fight against Covid-19.
A case study: the potential impact of Fairbnb.coop in a city of art
Apartments (in purple) and rooms (in blue) for short-term rentals in the center of Florence. Source: Airdna.co
We are now ready to extend the service and our sustainable tourism model all over the world, to generate a positive impact on every community. In a city with a tourist vocation like Florence in Italy, for example, around 8,120 apartments and rooms are today offered for short-term rentals on the main booking platforms, at an average price of €100 per night. Reaching just 10% of the market and with an average of only 6 nights booked per month, approximately € 450,000 per year could be raised to support projects in favour of the local community.
If the market were to return to pre-Covid levels, when short-term rentals were over 14,000, this figure would easily and by far exceed one million euros. Non-repayable resources and zero bureaucracy for Culture, Environment and Sustainable Development.
In many cities, Fairbnb.coop is already arousing excitement among many Hosts, happy to make a positive impact on their communities rather than vanish much of the profits generated by their short-term rentals in the invisible hands of web capitalism. For the success of this sustainable tourism model, however, a joint effort by all stakeholders, including families who book a holiday and local institutions, is required: the benefits promise to be universal.
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How it works:
The Host earns the same,
the Guest pays the same
but the benefits are for the whole community.
50% of our platform fee is used to fund a project of your choice for the communities you visit.
This is a what we call
Community Powered Tourism.