13 May 2015
By Bryan T. Smyth
The world it is a changin’
Hitherto Taxi/Hackney drivers were the only people who could collect passengers from public places. This wasn’t just for licensing reasons, it was also for practical reasons, as a potential passenger would have now way of knowing that a driver wished to operate as a de facto taxi.
However then a website appeared which facilitated ordinary motorists liase with ordinary passengers, it’s called Uber.
Barriers in the world are being broken down through technology.
Now the position of Hotels is being threatened by Airbnb, a website which allows ordinary people let out rooms in their homes to strangers who previously might have stayed in a Hotel or Guesthouse.
Cork based Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune sits on the European Parliaments Tourism Taskforce. Clune has rejected calls to regulate websites like Airbnb out of existence. Speaking at a Parliament hearing on tourism, she said that while challenges are presented by accommodation sharing websites like Airbnb, we cannot react by ignoring them, or by trying to ban these innovations out of existence.
“People like Airbnb; this is evidenced by the millions who have already downloaded the app. The tourism market and the ways in which people book accommodation are rapidly changing. Sharing economy technology platforms like Airbnb pose as many challenges as they do opportunities for Irish tourism but they are here to stay and we must deal with them head on.
“We cannot stop progress nor can we turn back the clock on technology. Airbnb is just the beginning of a new wave of digital sharing platforms that will revolutionise the tourism sector and life in rural Ireland.
“Some MEPs in the European Parliament believe in applying strict new regulations for apps like Airbnb. I would argue that the internal market mechanisms are already in place and designed to allow companies like Airbnb to operate freely within the common market. These companies create jobs and generate more tourists.
“The fact of the matter is that we must realise that tourists differ. Some will go for the comfort, safety and experience of a hotel. Others value price and a sharing experience and so are drawn to Airbnb. By allowing more choice in the tourist market, we are broadening the appeal of our tourist offering.
“A recent study from the University of Boston entitled The Rise of the Sharing Economy: Estimating the Impact of Airbnb on the Hotel Industry showed that hotels have responded to the threats from Airbnb by reducing prices, an impact that benefits all consumers, not just participants in the sharing economy. This will ensure a competitive tourist market in Ireland which will continue to grow our share of the market.
“Our role as legislators is to set clear minimum standards for health and safety for all accommodation providers so that we can create a level playing pitch for both the sharing economy and traditional accommodation providers, and this is something we will do. Platforms like Airbnb should make these rules clear to their hosts.”