Airbnb must be taught a lesson for eliminating rentals in the West Bank from its portfolio.
In Israel, the reaction to Airbnb’s decision was a cacophony of voices. Minister Gilad Erdan said Airbnb lists rentals in countries run by dictators. (True.) Minister Ayelet Shaked said Israel might sue Airbnb. (That would take a long time.) And Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said Israel will impose restrictions on Airbnb’s operations in Israel (the nature of which he did not specify).
Meanwhile, here in America, the Simon Wiesenthal Center – along with many others – came out in a favor of boycotting the company.
But to fight Airbnb effectively, we would be wise to take note that this leading broker of short-term rentals is currently under worldwide attack from a range of enemies. Hotels oppose Airbnb, as do long-term renters who find it hard to find an apartment since owners make more money on short-term rentals.
In some places, Airbnb has led to an increase in criminality, and apartment owners or long-term renters find it unnerving to suddenly discover a stranger living next door with keys to the building.
New York is Airbnb’s second largest market and one of several American cities that have taken measures against Airbnb and other short-term rental companies. A report commissioned by the hotel workers union found that nearly half of New York City’s rental revenue on Airbnb was earned by 10 percent of hosts in the city.
Thus, only few people substantially benefit from the short-term rental business. Earlier this year, a report from the New York City comptroller’s office found that Airbnb was exacerbating the city’s affordable housing crisis in various parts of the city.
In San Francisco, thousands of hosts stopped renting out apartments after new rental registration laws took effect. At the end of 2017, Seattle requested hosts to obtain city licenses and forbade the rental of more than two units per host.
Last month, the Washington City Council voted unanimously to impose tight limits on short-term rental companies. Other U.S. cities have also taken measures to reduce short term rentals, and others are considering doing so.
In Europe, various cities have acted similarly. Barcelona requires apartment owners who temporarily rent their homes to register and Airbnb to provide information on all hosts. If it does not comply, the company is fined 600 000 Euro.
In Paris, Airbnb’s largest market in the world, heavy fines are now imposed on companies that rent dwellings without a government license. In addition, those who rent for more than 120 days per year are heavily penalized. In London the rental limit is 90 days per year. A major Spanish tourist destination, Palma de Majorca, forbids short-term rentals altogether.
In the Netherlands, Airbnb has suffered huge negative media publicity. Leading comedian Arjen Lubach devoted one of his much-watched TV programs to criticizing Airbnb’s mode of operations. On January 1, 2019, the limit for short term rentals in Amsterdam will be halved from 60 days per year to 30.
When planning to act against Airbnb, the Israeli government must take all the above into account. It can potentially mobilize allies who want to hit the same target for very different reasons.
It is crucial, though, that Airbnb suffer lasting damage – even if it reverses its decision. We must make other companies think twice before jumping on the BDS bandwagon.