Don' t make home-sharing illegal, Airbnb urges

Local | Sophie Hui 13 Jul 2018

Airbnb has urged lawmakers to veto a bill which facilitates the prosecution of illegal lodgings, as it makes their home-sharing business unlawful.

Airbnb's plea comes after the Legislative Council gave first reading to the amendment bill for the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance. The bill has now been passed on to the House Committee for deliberation.

Airbnb said the new bill is based on the results of an outdated public consultation, which failed to include home-sharing lodging.

With this in mind, it called on the government to consult citizens again.

"Four years ago, Airbnb or co-sharing was not a concept that was well-known to everyone," said Gina Tsai, Airbnb's head of public policy in Hong Kong and Taiwan. "But four years after, most people would view Airbnb as one of the options when they travel.

"We are using a public consultation result done four years ago, and it didn't put co-sharing as one of the categories in this new bill, which has not met the expectations of the travel trend worldwide, nor the expectation of Hong Kong people."

Airbnb said the government has yet to respond to the home-sharing suggestions it proposed in May. Despite this, Tsai insisted that the company will continue trying to communicate with the government.

Marvin Ma, Airbnb's public affairs manager in Hong Kong and Taiwan, said the company won't turn its back on Hong Kong due to the passing of the bill. He explained the firm has no plans to go down that particular route, since it doesn't only serve travelers coming to the SAR, but also Hongkongers who travel abroad.

He said the company is willing to be regulated by the government, but under a set of rules for home-sharing rather than the regulations designed for hotels and guesthouses.

Last month, the home-sharing platform commissioned an independent research company to conduct an online survey of 800 Hong Kong residents aged between 18 and 55.

Some 77 percent of respondents supported the notion Legco shouldn't pass the amendment bill.

Meanwhile, 65 percent of those surveyed said they were interested in becoming Airbnb hosts, and 78 percent of them were interested in earning more money by being an Airbnb host.

Half of the respondents expressed their desire to make use of the extra space in their homes, and more than 80 percent felt Airbnb benefits tourism and local residents.

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