“Travel like a local.”
In an era where “tourist” is fast becoming passe, this is an expression we hear a lot. Marketers use it to sell the idea of a journey off the beaten path. Millennials put it in their Instagram captions.
Still, nobody epitomizes these four words better than Airbnb.
Thanks to Airbnb, we’re now exploring obscure neighbourhoods, and choosing the metro over open-top buses. It has radically altered the philosophy of travel and, in turn, the hospitality and real estate industries.
Airbnb turns 10 this year. Over the past decade, countries and their Airbnb regulations have been adapting at different rates. While homestays in treehouses and padi fields have sprouted in places like Thailand and Indonesia, cracks are beginning to surface in other places.
For starters, here are eight popular countries in the Asia-Pacific region with tricky Airbnb regulations. We’ve done the due diligence for you so you can jet off to a crisis-free vacation.
An overhaul in Japan
As of 15 June 2018, Airbnb residences across Japan have to be registered with the local government. The units and their owners will be subjected to fire safety and health checks. They’ll also be limited to 180 rental days per year, similar to the 120-day cap in central Paris.
Other neighbourhood-specific limits have also been introduced. For example, rentals in Shibuya are allowed only during school holidays to minimise interaction between schoolchildren and strangers. Those in Chuo-ku are allowed only on weekends as letting strangers into the building throughout the week is deemed unsafe.
Meanwhile, rentals in Kyoto are restricted to a time window between mid-January to mid- March, which coincides with the low season for tourists.
How it affects you
If you have an upcoming booking, make sure it isn’t one of the 50,000 listings that have already been taken down. But even if it is, you’ll be relieved to know Airbnb has set aside a $10 million fund to provide full refunds, along with a $100 coupon for an Airbnb Experience. Talk about customer service.
As for the rest of us, this move will probably reverse the hotel pricing dips in 2017, especially since the Olympics are coming up in 2020.
Closing time in NSW, Australia
Airbnb is commonplace in Australia, with listings having increased by a whopping 87 percent over the last year. Also in June in this year, the cosmopolitan city of Sydney was flung into the spotlight for implementing heavy-handed regulations owing to a more prevalent party culture.
Like Japan, Airbnb hosts in Sydney will be limited to having guests for only 180 nights a year. Plus, hosts now have to comply with a code of conduct or risk getting banned or fined.
How it affects you
Sydney’s Airbnb code tackles issues such as disruptive guests, noise levels, and damage to property. Two strikes within two years is all it takes for a host to be banned for five years, and even fined up to AU$220,000.
Sydney-siders also have the power to ban Airbnb so long as three-quarters of the tenants in a building are in favor of doing so. So for guests wreaking havoc in common areas that other residents use, closing time could be earlier than we thought.
With these policies in place, we shouldn’t be surprised to see cost being transferred to the nightly rates guests have to pay, and fines being implemented as a deterrent for misuse.
China: From Airbnb To Aibiying
Aibiying, which translates to “welcome each other with love” in Chinese, is Airbnb’s new alias in China. And their people hate it. In August 2018, the platform tried to organize a slumber party at the Great Wall. People hated that too.
Still, Airbnb’s other moves to crack the infamous Chinese market, like tripling the local workforce and doubling investment, are beginning to pay off. Listings have grown more than 125 percent in the past year, and China has become the platform’s fastest-growing domestic market.
With that, the government has made it mandatory for homeowners to submit guest details from March 2018 onwards. Airbnb Plus, a premium tier of homes vetted for cleanliness, design and comfort, is now a thing too, starting in Shanghai. To round up the new quality control standards, there’s even an academy that trains homeowners to be better hosts.
How it affects you
Foreign Airbnb guests in China will have to start submitting a temporary residence registration form to the local Public Security Bureau, along with identification details. While this is currently practised in the interest of documentation, the authorities’ involvement could spell taxation of rent in the near future, which could very well jack up nightly rates too.
Still, it doesn’t mean we can’t look forward to Airbnb experiences of better infrastructure, hospitality and variety. So even if their listings didn’t come in an astounding variety the last time you checked, keep your eyes peeled from here on out and you might find yourself spending a night in a wooden Qing Dynasty house on the mountains.
Hong Kong & Singapore: Small, Hopeful Concrete Jungles
Space is notoriously scarce and expensive in Hong Kong and Singapore, two cities that have barely enough room for their own residents.
In land-starved Hong Kong, premises offering paid accommodation for short stays of less than 28 continuous days have to be licensed, with violations leading to hefty fines and two years’ imprisonment.
Meanwhile in Singapore, public and private housing rentals under six and three months respectively have to obtain permission from the authorities. A 90-day rental cap might also be underway. But the little red dot remains open to negotiations, such as granting leeway in neighbourhoods that are popular among foreign tenants.
How it affects you
Recently, word has been on the street that there could be even tougher sanctions against Airbnb users—both hosts and guests—in Hong Kong. To avoid complications, it doesn’t hurt to verify with hosts before booking!
Vacation With A Peace Of Mind
Airbnb makes perfect sense in theory. It allows homeowners to utilize excess resources, and gives travelers a new way of seeing. But reality isn’t so picture-perfect.
Be it disruption to the property market or resistance from locals, there’ll always be impetus for regulations to shift over and over again as a country adapts to the sharing economy.
This affects hosts directly, but as guests, no one wants to discover their ‘Authentic Ryokan Homestay In Kyoto’ has been removed from the platform right before their trip. When that happens, you’d have to fork out even more for last-minute lodging.
Keeping up with the news may prevent your travel plans from being thwarted, but there are a thousand and one things that no due diligence can prepare you for. That’s where a comprehensive travel insurance plan will cover you in mishaps, ranging from flight delays to stolen belongings.
Traveling soon (or frequently)? Get a single-trip or annual quotation for travel insurance.