2 June 2017

Namibia: Hospitality Sector Sees Airbnb As a Threat

THE hospitality industry at the coast says the emergence of the online marketplace and hospitality service which enables people to lease or rent accommodation on short-term basis is threatening their businesses.

Airbnb enables people to lease or rent apartments, homes, hostel and hotels rooms without any operators licence nor adherence to the industry's standards and practices.

The company does not own any lodgings; it is merely a broker, and receives commission from guests and hosts for every booking.

It has over three million accommodation listings in 65 000 cities and in 191 countries.

Anett König of the Hotel Association of Namibia (HAN) at Swakopmund said there were about 225 Airbnb members from Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, most of them not registered with the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB).

"Everyone thinks that tourism is the answer, and so all are jumping on the bandwagon for a quick buck. Neither HAN nor the NTB has problems with people wanting to come on board, but they have to follow the same procedures as registered members. This will ensure accountability and the maintenance of standards that Namibia is known for," she reasoned.

She said Airbnb members are increasing at a rapid pace as no registration fees are required, and instantly one gets one's name onto the global market.

Airbnb does, however, indemnify themselves by telling members to ensure they abide by the rules in their countries.

Renatus Neema, a senior inspector for the NTB, told The Namibian that according to NTB laws, anyone engaging in a tourism business must be registered with the NTB, and the fees are not high.

"If they run businesses such as accommodation establishments which are not registered with us, then they are breaking the law. We try and inform the people of the illegality of it, and the necessity to register. While some respond positively, there are those who accuse us of harassing them, and refuse to register. People who know what to do but still refuse to comply will face legal action," he warned.

He added that unregistered businesses can charge high fees and give nothing back to the community, even through levies and taxes. Data on tourism is also lost because of unregistered businesses, which statistics are important tools in marketing Namibia as a tourism destination.

"Airbnb is a good marketing tool, and we understand that we need to remain on the cutting edge of business approaches, but it must remain transparent," said König.

"If there is no transparency and accountability, these people will drag Namibian standards down, which in turn could have a detrimental effect on the tourism industry as a whole."

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