The great rebalance of European travel

The pandemic has had a devastating impact on everyone and almost everything across the world, including tourism. This has been particularly hard felt in Europe which accounted for more than half of international tourist arrivals – or over 745 million visitors – in 2019. 

Vaccinations offer light at the end of the tunnel. Earlier this month, the President of the European Commission told The New York Times that vaccinated American tourists may be able to visit Europe this summer, and the EU Commission is investing in efforts to support cross-border travel within the EU.

Before tourism returns in full to Europe, we want to seize this unique opportunity to work with communities across the region to rebalance tourism and ensure that the return of travel is safe, sustainable and benefits everyone – spreading economic benefits to more people and preventing the return of the overtourism phenomenon, where too much tourism is concentrated in too few places. 

Building a new, better kind of European travel sector will take the determined action of all stakeholders, including Airbnb. Today, we are unveiling five ways in which our platform and our community will be playing our part to support The Great Rebalance of European Travel. 

Redistributing tourism

Travel fundamentally changed as a result of the pandemic. Last summer for example, three times more people stayed in Airbnbs in Brittany than in Paris, and in the last quarter of 2020 more guests stayed in Sicily than Florence and Venice combined. With 5.6 million listings spread across more than 220 countries and regions, Airbnb is helping disperse tourism and is especially creating new economic opportunities for Hosts in rural areas. Already welcomed over 75,000 new rural Hosts who have earned over $250 million since the pandemic started and we know from guest feedback that many travelers have enjoyed the opportunity to rediscover places closer to home. 

As part of our commitment to help redistribute where people are traveling to – seeking to avoid guests concentrating in the same handful of cities as before – we will pursue partnerships with destination marketing organizations across Europe to promote and disperse tourism to the places that most want it, spreading benefits across the region. 

Already we have signed more than 100 partnerships and collaborations with destination marketing organizations, governments and nonprofits to support local economic recovery – from Scotland to Seville – as part of an initiative launched in June 2020, and we will continue to do more, such as investing in initiatives like our recent Rural Bootcamps to help more people host in these areas.

Supporting regulation of short term rentals

We have long said that we support regulation and have signed more than 1,000 regulatory and tax agreements globally, many of which are built around smart and simple Host registration as an effective way to regulate short term rentals. 

A growing number of agreements are underpinned by the City Portal, which we launched last year as a first of its kind solution – built exclusively for governments and tourism organizations – with tools including Host registration and data sharing for authorities. Our goal is to have 50 European governments and authorities online with the tool by the end of 2021.

At the EU level, we have also signed a data sharing partnership with the EU Commission to help governments access the information they need, and we are working with policymakers at all levels to bring to life proposals in the EU’s Digital Services Act on how Europe-wide regulations could provide a simpler, less fragmented approach. Already this year we have signed progressive agreements with the governments of France, Greece and the Netherlands, which are great examples of how we will move forward on smart regulations in collaboration with governments across Europe. 

Combating noise and nuisance

We are committed to the tools and policies necessary to help ensure the safety of guests and protect communities from negative impacts of tourism on their quality of life. Our Neighbor Support Line is now available in the UK, France, Netherlands, Ireland, Czech Republic and Hungary, providing a direct line of communication to Airbnb to report concerns about listings or guest behavior. We will be making this available shortly in Spain, Germany and Austria and more in the months to come. 

We have also undertaken a series of efforts to help block parties in Airbnb listings, including removing so-called ‘party houses’, banning large gatherings and reviewing potentially high risk reservations. So far, we have suspended or removed over 2,700 listings in the UK, Spain, France and Netherlands and over 400,000 reservation attempts have been blocked in the UK, France and Spain.

Spreading the economic benefits of tourism

Everyone in Europe should have the opportunity to financially benefit from tourism and we commit that our platform will continue to enable that. The vast majority of the economics on Airbnb goes directly into the pockets of ordinary people and 55 percent of Hosts in Europe are women. What’s more, guests staying in Airbnbs spend in the local neighborhoods benefiting local businesses. In Lisbon for example, every 100 listings have been estimated to support 52 jobs and contribute over 2 million euros to the local economy.

We also want to make sure that authorities hit hard financially by the pandemic can properly tax tourist revenue and we will continue to support the collection and remittance of tourist taxes. In France alone we have remitted approximately €120 million in tourist taxes over five years (2015-2019). We have also welcomed European and global agreements to simplify reporting of Host income to national tax authorities. 

Tourism innovation

New trends have emerged from the pandemic that we believe will continue well beyond it and we commit to helping destinations take advantage of them. 

Take remote working for example. If you can work from anywhere then why not stay longer in a destination? We have seen a significant rise in long term stays as people embrace the flexibility offered by remote working. Longer term visitors immerse themselves and spend more in communities which is why a number of European cities and countries are seeking to attract this kind of longer term tourism. We can help destinations leverage this opportunity, such as our recent smart working collaboration with Visit Trentino.

While the pandemic has been – and continues to be – a terrible experience for humanity, it has reminded all of us what is most important – family, friends, and loved ones. The desire to travel and connect with each other is innate but, as we have seen through the pandemic, can change. It is not inevitable that the old days of over tourism in Europe will return. We can seize the opportunity now to preserve 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.