…and the revenues it does raise aren’t always reinvested wisely
“There is some evidence that Airbnb is positively correlated with local business performance,” notes Dr Kung. “But I don’t know of any very rigorous evidence to suggest at what rate revenues generated from home sharing are reinvested in the local economy. Recently, cities have had much more success in collecting occupancy taxes from hosts – the platforms have been co-operating with cities.”
Seemingly good news: cities increasingly able to capture the value of short-term rentals will be increasingly able to fund social and public infrastructure.
Perhaps not. Prof. Colomb tells a cautionary tale. “In Barcelona, there’s been a huge debate. A tourist tax – a small amount of money per bed, per night – was imposed. But it turned out that the money was reinvested in funding marketing for more tourism. This does not help to address the adverse impacts of tourism on the city’s spaces, services and inhabitants.”
It can lead people to feel displaced in their own city
The combined effect of the above factors has been an increase in the number of people who feel estranged in the cities they call home. This is surely what inspired the inclusion of the word “psychological” in the European Parliament’s definition of overtourism.
High concentrations of visitors can disturb daily life in the form of traffic congestion, noise, litter, overcrowding, crime and disorderly behaviour, air pollution. Beyond those issues, says Prof. Colomb, “In recent years the concept of gentrification has been expanded to include what is called ‘touristification.’ That includes the transformation of both retail and housing markets, as well as changes in public spaces. Some residents may decide to leave a neighbourhood because they feel the quality of life has become unbearable with the vast presence of visitors occupying public spaces. There is interesting work looking at not only the economic and housing dimension of tourism-induced displacement of people and activities, but also at the psychological cost of feeling alienated in one’s own neighbourhood. It’s something you hear a lot when you interview residents of Venice, Barcelona or Prague.”
- Prof. Claire Colomb is Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London (UCL)
- Dr Edward Kung is Assistant Professor of Economics at David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, California State University, Northridge