Peer-to-peer accommodation such as Airbnb should be regularised to create a level playing field, MHRA president Tony Zahra urged this morning.

The sharing economy - the peer-to-peer sharing of goods and services through online networks - is not going to go away, Mr Zahra insisted.

He was speaking at an annual conference organised by the university’s Tourism Students Association, which is this year focusing on the effects of shared economy on Malta’s tourism industry. 

“We have to be careful as to how we move forward in this sector. If someone is operating a property, they have to abide by regulations. Otherwise, the guys who are already regulated, licensed and paying the 50c environment contribution per tourist per day will run out of business. We need to have a level playing field,” Mr Zahra said. 

Like its European peers, Malta is closely monitoring peer-to-peer platforms- Edward Zammit Lewis

Addressing the same conference, Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis also expressed concern about peer-to-peer tourism.

The global economic crisis had encouraged efficient ways of making use of existing resources, such as booking a private house or apartment. However, this had given rise to concern about how such accommodation was spreading in an unregulated manner, he said.

“Compliance with hospitality standards comes at a cost… Operators have to ensure the safety of their clients and they also have to comply with employment regulations, among others,” Mr Lewis added.

The minister noted that irregular peer-to-peer accommodation could give rise to a black market within the sector and contribute to irregular employment.

This is why Malta, like its European peers, was closely monitoring such peer-to-peer platforms, and the government was willing to open a discussion with all stakeholders.

In fact, revised tourism and travel industry regulations, including a proposed third party reliability insurance for Airbnb, were recently launched for public consultation, he said.

Sustainable tourism is not about encouraging development in rural areas- Antoine Borg

Opposition tourism spokesman Antoine Borg meanwhile noted that Malta had been experiencing shared economy for the past 40 years, with the development of host families and self-catering accommodation, and the more recent Airbnb, boutique and bed and breakfast accommodation.

However, tourism went beyond figures and statistics, he said, calling for investment in the sustainability of Malta as a destination.

“Sustainable tourism is not about encouraging development in rural areas. We need to respect our environment and those areas designated as ODZ if we are serious about sustainability. It also means listening to people,” Mr Borg said. 

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