The city of Paris appeared to have buried the hatchet with Airbnb on Thursday after the short-term rental website promised to comply with city regulations to start collecting a lodgings tax. Paris is the No. 1 destination for Airbnb users.
It was all smiles and handshakes when Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky appeared before the cameras with Deputy Mayor Bruno Julliard at the Town Hall in Paris.
“We had a very cordial discussion,” said the deputy mayor, while Chesky hailed the French capital as Airbnb's "Number one city".
The meeting came two weeks after Parisian hotel owners penned a letter to Prime Minister Manuel Valls, angered by what they describe as “unfair” competition from the San Francisco-based rental website.
In November, French lawmakers passed a law obliging Airbnb and similar sites to collect a “taxe de séjour”, or lodgings tax, like hotels. The tax amounts to between €0.20 and €0.75 per day and brings in some €40 million to Paris every year.
Julliard told reporters that although Airbnb does indeed pose some competition to the city’s hotel industry, it has also become beneficial to tourism in the French capital.
“Airbnb has become an essential offering for accommodation in Paris, especially for younger tourists,” Julliard said, pointing to the shortage of affordable hotel rooms.
Chesky nodded in agreement, adding that: “I don’t think for us to win [that] anybody has to lose”.
Hunting down frauds
Paris is the No. 1 destination for Airbnb users, with a total of 1.8 million visits since its creation in 2008, and the site now counts more than 40,000 Parisian homes to its network. Five years ago, just 50 Parisian homes were registered with Airbnb.
“Ultimately we’re allowing people that couldn’t have made an income to be able to share their space and we allow people who wouldn’t have been able to afford to come to Paris to come and stay,” Chesky said.
He added that he had taken the concerns voiced by the mayor’s office seriously.
“We want to make sure that hosts do comply with local laws and regulations. So whatever we can do to cooperate we would like to do that,” he said.
As part of the cooperation, Airbnb has promised to look out for users who abuse the system by pretending to live in apartments exclusively reserved for short-term rental.
Last year, Paris intensified its controls to make sure that Airbnb home owners were not violating the rules.
France is the world’s most visited country, with Paris receiving some 30 million tourists each year, more than any other world city.
Date created : 2015-02-26