The Department of Tourism has bowed to pressure from the regulated hospitality industry to regulate Airbnb. File picture
Cape Town - The Department of Tourism has bowed to pressure from the regulated hospitality industry to regulate Airbnb.

The government has published the Tourism Amendment Bill, which stipulates that short-term home rentals will fall under the Tourism Act.

The Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) that has been lobbying for Airbnbs to be regulated, welcomed the decision.

“The major request from our members is that all accommodation providers should be subjected to the same regulations, which is currently not the case. Fedhasa, together with other industry associations, have been lobbying the government to level the playing fields,” said Fedhasa chairperson Jeff Rosenberg.

He said, although the competition was healthy, the wellbeing of clients remained vital.

“It is essential to ensure that all accommodation establishments, including Airbnb, should have the necessary and relevant licences and insurance certificates to safeguard their guests at all times,” Rosenberg said.

The amendment empowers the tourism minister to lay down “thresholds” for Airbnb in South Africa. These could include limits on how many nights guests are allowed to stay over, or how much income an Airbnb may earn.

Another aspect of the new regulation is the determination of zones where Airbnbs are allowed.

Airbnb, much like with ride-sharing app Uber and metered taxis, has come under fire from established hotels and bed-and-breakfasts.

Fedhasa, in conjunction with SA Tourism, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and other groups, had lobbied authorities to make the regulations applicable to all.

Airbnb has become the fastest-growing online platform in the world since it launched in 2009. It’s an online portal that allows people to rent their properties or spare guest rooms.

The online platform takes a 3% commission for every booking from the host, and between 6% and 12% from guests.

TBCSA chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said: “We have been having discussions around short-term accommodation because you are competing with hotels. It's vital that rules are followed and that it's regulated.”

The TBCSA said Airbnb was threatening the viability of conventional lodging providers such as hotels, and could lead to job losses. Airbnb said in a statement: “We support clear and progressive rules that support the sustainable growth of home sharing and are having productive discussions with the government on measures to help hosts share their homes, follow the rules and pay their fair share of tax.”


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Cape Argus