Scottish short-term let proposals will still the beating heart of tourism

Scotland’s beauty draws visitors from across the globe and millions of guests have chosen to enjoy its world-renowned hospitality in the homes of local residents. 

The trend is good news for Scottish families and locals with tourism pounds spreading beyond the usual hotspots and into further afield communities. 

Guests who stay in short-term lets such as Airbnb also stay longer, spend more, and are more likely to return to Scotland than other visitors. Last year alone, travel on Airbnb boosted the Scottish economy by almost £2 million a day, supporting around 34,000 jobs.

And while the pandemic has forced many to temporarily close their doors, short-term let hosts have been dealt an additional blow as new rules proposed by the Scottish Government risk permanently pricing thousands of hosts out of tourism for good. 

Under the proposals, hosts wanting to welcome guests into their home would have to overcome one of the most bureaucratic and financially damaging red-tape regimes in the world. 

The costs of meeting licensing requirements could be more than £700 while securing planning permission could cost up to £4,000. Hosts might also face costly home alterations, such as  replacing wooden floors with lino. 

Economists say that the proposals could take £1 million a day out of the Scottish economy and put 17,000 jobs at risk – the same as boosting unemployment by 0.6%. For families – nearly half of whom say that the additional income is an economic lifeline – the effects would be devastating. 

At a time when everyone is facing countless personal and professional challenges, the Government has rushed this consultation without accounting for the significant impact of the proposals.

We fear the economic and social harm that would arise from proposals championed by a minority of naysayers, falsely claiming that anyone occasionally welcoming a guest into their home is one less home for living in.

Scotland is absolutely right to pursue new rules and we wholeheartedly support proposals that recognise the way people live, work and travel today but we are calling on the government to pause and reconsider. 

We want to work together on a balanced way forward that regulates short-term lets while protecting livelihoods and prioritising the needs of local families, who are the beating heart of Scottish hospitality and who need the additional income most. 

For these families trying to weather the pandemic, they aren’t asking for additional support or funding. They just want the opportunity to open their doors again when all this is over. 

Allowing them to do so – supported by smart regulations – is in everyone’s best interests. 

Patrick Robinson – Director of Public Policy, Airbnb

*This article originally appeared in The Times (Scotland) on 23 November 2020.