Amanda Cupples: The short-term letting industry has an important role to play as tourism bounces back

3 Oct

Amanda Cupples is a Senior Executive at Airbnb. This is a sponsored post by Airbnb.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic affected us all, its economic consequences were particularly stark in the communities across Britain that rely on tourism.

Shuttered shops, businesses and attractions became an all-too familiar sight in towns, villages and cities across the UK – with devastating consequences for the communities whose livelihoods were taken away.

As restrictions took hold last year, forcing the cancellation or postponement of millions of holidays, the domestic tourism industry shrank by about two thirds – a loss to the UK economy of £58 billion, according to VisitBritain.

But as the country has started to re-open, we’ve seen the UK’s incredible tourism always play its part, millions of people were able to enjoy a Great British Summer, choosing to embrace UK holidays in 2021.

Nearby travel has made up 82 per cent of nights booked via Airbnb in the UK this year, while rural travel accounted for 48 per cent, up from 23 per cent in 2019. Sandgate in Kent became the top trending coastal destination in the UK, as Brits chose to embrace the nostalgia of Great British seaside holidays.

For guests, Airbnb gives them the opportunity to stay outside of tourist hotspots, and shop, eat and drink in local shops, bars and restaurants they might otherwise have missed.

And for hosts, using the Airbnb platform allows them to earn extra income for themselves and their communities. The majority of UK hosts share a space in their own home, with nearly a third saying that the additional income short-term letting provides is an economic lifeline.

While the return of domestic travel has been welcome, we also recognise that it has brought challenges – particularly in the most popular destinations across the country. That is why we’ve worked hard to support local authorities and communities to ensure the responsible recovery of tourism in their areas.

In a first for the UK, Airbnb has offered local governments, politicians and tourism organisations access to Airbnb’s City Portal. This provides stakeholders with tools and locally-specific data to give them insights into short-term lets in their area and the ability to deal with incidents or concerns.

But we want to go further. In June we launched our Short-term Lets Registration White Paper, setting out proposals for a simple, new national registration system for short-term let operators in the UK.

A registration system would give greater transparency over short-term letting activity across the country, giving local authorities greater visibility on short-term lets, including those who are breaking the rules.

Following the launch of the White Paper, the Government made the welcome announcement that it will consult on introducing a national registration system as part of its Tourism Recovery Plan.

The pandemic has changed the way people view travel and we want to continue working with the Government, with local authorities and with communities across the UK to ensure that as tourism recovers, it does so in a sustainable and responsible way.

The recovery from Covid-19 will take time and be immensely challenging. But we are committed to preserving the positive changes in travel that have emerged over the last year and restore tourism in a way that works for communities and visitors alike.