Rental platforms like AirBnB must report data to government – EU rules

Chamber, MHRA says data-sharing rules a step closer to fair level playing-field in tourist accommodation sector

European rules for short-term accommodation rentals (STR) will create more transparency in the short-term private rental accommodation sector, by allowing governments to receive accurate data from online intermediary platforms like AirBnB.

Having risen in popularity in Malta and across the EU, alternative private short-term rentals have brought huge benefits to hosts and tourists.

But the new model also raised several new challenges to other accommodation operators and local communities. For instance, short term rentals contributed to increased demand for real estate development with a consequential impact on housing prices and the environment.

Under the new rules adopted by the European Commission, public authorities will have access to data on short-term accommodation rentals, the number of rented nights, and of guests. This will enable them to use this information to draft and implement better and more effective policies.

The STR regulation is also proposing for the setting up or updating of existent local registration systems that will generate a unique registration number per property. This will need to be displayed on online platforms and verified.

The Malta Business Bureau, the EU advocacy organisation of the Malta Chamber of Commerce and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, welcomed the proposal given that this economic activity remains generally unregulated or without sufficient enforcement, to the detriment of legitimate businesses.

“Having a Europe-wide level-playing field through clear and simple rules for the registration and compliance of short-term rentals is essential and everybody stands to gain,” MBB President Alison Mizzi said.

“Tourists will continue benefiting from a wide range of accommodation choices, traditional accommodation providers can compete on a fair level playing-field, and public authorities will have a more robust legal backing in gaining access to data, which will contribute to a more sustainable tourism ecosystem.”

MHRA President Tony Zahra said hotels and other accommodation providers must adhere to strict regulations to be compliant with existing laws ensuring the safety and wellbeing of guests. “MHRA has been vocal over the years at the rampant disregard of these strict rules and regulations by non-licensed and non-compliant accommodation owners who not only fail to abide by these regulations but also fail to pay Vat, Income tax, and Eco-tax on earnings.  This has the effect of possibly having substandard accommodation which affects the quality of the Maltese product and a great loss to the exchequer.”

A Deloitte report on the Maltese island’s carrying capacity of tourism found that if all the beds available today and those applied for are approved, Malta would need 4.7 million tourists staying an average of seven nights to achieve an 80 per cent occupancy throughout the year.

“If one adds the unlicensed and unregulated, then the number of tourists that is required is increased proportionately,” Zahra said. “It is the government’s job to ensure that all accommodation providers are compliant with the laws and regulations in force and to take immediate action to ensure a level playing field for all providers of accommodation.”