Register and fair planning rules can protect housing, tourism and Hosts

Hosts on Airbnb across the country are helping to showcase England’s best loved destinations and hidden gems, bringing tourism and hundreds of millions of pounds into local and regional economies. This has helped Hosts earn extra income, providing a much-needed boost as the country continues to face one of the worst cost-of-living crises in recent memory.   

For many families, hosting on Airbnb is an economic lifeline. The overwhelming majority of Hosts share just one property and 4 in 10 UK Hosts say the extra income helps them stay in their homes by affording rising living, energy and mortgage costs1

Airbnb recognises the historic housing challenges facing parts of England and we want our platform to be part of the solution. We welcome regulation and have long called for the introduction of a national tourism accommodation register to produce accurate, nationwide data, that gives government and local authorities a clear picture of the visitor economy, including short-term letting activity. 

Our submissions to the Government’s consultations on registration and planning seek to ensure any new rules are clear, straightforward, and proportionate. To effectively protect tourism, provide a clear picture of short term letting activity, support everyday Hosts, and clampdown on speculators that drive local concerns, we have suggested additional measures for the Government to consider: 

Data sharing

The proposed UK host register will help local authorities understand who is sharing their home and where. Without annual occupancy data from booking intermediaries, however, local authorities will not know how frequently homes are being let out. This could lead to a local authority treating someone letting out a spare room for a weekend in the same way as a dedicated holiday let that is booked for 365 nights a year. Airbnb therefore proposes that the government backs data sharing on occupancy levels from booking intermediaries to ensure that local authority interventions are informed and proportionate. 

Evidence-based planning decisions 

Evidence must be at the heart of any planning interventions, and data from an effective central short-term let register should be the source that informs local and national decisions on housing. The current planning proposals do not acknowledge the importance of a comprehensive short-term lets register on informing local planning rules – and without this reliable evidence base, the grounds on which local planning restrictions could be introduced remains unclear. Airbnb therefore proposes that the Government backs using the short-term let register as a crucial source of information, to ensure that planning interventions are evidence-based and don’t risk cutting a financial lifeline to households and communities that depend on tourism. 

Theo Lomas, Head of Public Policy and Government Relations, for Northern Europe at Airbnb, said:

“This is an opportunity to develop clear, simple and effective rules that work for everyone. National registration and data sharing can give local authorities an accurate picture of short term letting activity, enabling them to make informed and targeted planning decisions that do not unnecessarily risk cutting a lifeline to households during the most challenging economic period in a decade. We look forward to continuing work with the Government to strengthen communities, support tourism, and boost the income of local families.” 

The growth of short-term let activity has also generated substantial direct and indirect financial benefits for the UK’s tourism sector, as well as playing a vital role in its continued recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. A report conducted with BiGGAR Economics, estimates that travel on Airbnb generated £1.8bn for England’s economy in 2021, supporting over 65,000 jobs.

Read our full submission on planning proposals here, and on registration here.

  1.  Based on a survey of 4,373 UK Hosts surveyed between July 7, 2022 and Dec. 31, 2022. Margin of error under 2%.