Tourism overload is a hot topic every summer in Scotland, and it takes several forms. One of them is Airbnb.
Whilst it may be a problem in some parts of the country, and great for others, the situation in Edinburgh is what often catches the headlines. People who live in apartment buildings (usually what we call tenements) lose neighbours and gain transient visitors who may just stay one night.
They may arrive in the early hours, and keep “holiday” hours, returning noisily after the pub shuts to wake up the other residents.
Owners can make more profit out of these short term lets than from longer term rentals. Businesses have grown up to service them for absentee owners.
I have read of similar issues in Barcelona and Toulouse.
I have been an Airbnb user (and fan) for several years. If I am staying somewhere for more than a night or two, I like the space and privacy of a studio or apartment. I like being able to live like a local rather than in a homogenised hotel. I have had great stays in Airbnbs from Rīga to Tbilisi and from Amsterdam to Reykjavík.
Very few have been operated through agencies. I remember two in Toulouse where owners were very clearly absentee. In one the agent was awkward – for example he wanted to meet to give me access at a precise time – not easy when you are arriving on a flight and then taking a bus from the airport.
In the other the agent was super pleasant and helpful.
In several places I was quite clearly living in the owner’s home – their clothes and other personal possessions were there, with some space cleared for mine. In the one I used in Girne (North Cyprus) the owner had just rented/bought an apartment specifically for Airbnb. However, he did all the work involved in checking me in and out.
In Reykjavík I was in the basement apartment of the owners’ house, and their teenagers’ job was to do the Airbnb tasks.
I know the Scottish Parliament has considered legislating to control short term rentals. I know Airbnb has lobbied MSPs against it. I suspect some form of regulation will arrive sooner rather than later. I will continue to use Airbnb, and I will continue to be a good neighbour for the other residents wherever I am. I will try to avoid the units which are obviously absentee owned and agency operated.
If you have any thoughts on the upsides and downsides – either as a user, an owner or a neighbour – please comment.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2019