International Journal of Tourism, Travel and Hospitality Law 2023

THE NEW ONLINE PLATFORM RULES 2.2 Short-term holiday rental platforms Short-term rental platforms, such as Airbnb, serve as intermediaries between the owners of different types of lodgings who wish to rent them out (hosts), and visitors (typically tourists) looking for short-term accommodation (guests). Hosts and guests communicate and transact directly with one another through the platform.13 Accessible via a website and mobile application, the digital platform allows hosts to present their residential premises (individual apartments, entire houses, holiday cottages, single or shared rooms) and the per-night prices for their use. Prospective guests can contact the homeowner through the platform and make a reservation for their selected option. Platform operators usually charge a service fee in the form of a commission on each booking made.14 This relationship may be described as a sharing economy where individuals temporarily rent out their residential property for a period in which they do not intend to use it themselves. However, digital platforms are also seeing increasing use by owners who do not use the property to live in but invest in it mainly for the purposes of renting it out to tourists, namely, as their supplementary economic activity.15 Before the onset of the pandemic, many European cities were faced with tourist overcrowding, partly boosted by short-term rental platforms, which had the negative social effects of removing housing from the market and driving up prices. Local authorities in many places have tried limiting the availability of short-term rentals in order to protect general interests like preservation of public space, neighbourhood coexistence, and guaranteeing a balanced offer of affordable housing and shops for residents. For this reason, urban planning restrictions have been introduced as well as limitations on the number of nights a residential property can be rented out annually in combination with the requirement that any advertising of tourist accommodation includes a correct registration number of the service provider.16 However, the authorities generally lack effective legal mechanisms to enforce such tourism regulations, particularly against the platforms themselves,17 which can rely on the exemption from liability for third-party activities and services provided through a platform under 13 Airbnb, 2020, p. 1. 14 The Airbnb platform is made available to users free of charge, but Airbnb charges fees to guests and/or hosts when a booking is made. Airbnb, 2020, p. 1. 15 Vlahek and Damjan, 2018, p. 119. 16 Martinez, 2021. Vlahek and Damjan, 2018, p. 135. 17 Martinez, 2021.