Wed, Apr 17, 2019 - Page 12 News List

Airbnb seeks talks with ministry on tighter regulations

By Kao Shih-ching  /  Staff reporter

Airbnb Inc yesterday protested against the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ proposed tighter regulations on home-sharing services, but said it hoped to work with the government to craft a policy that would create a win-win situation.

The ministry on March 26 proposed changes to Articles 55 and 55-1 of the Act for the Development of Tourism (發展觀光條例) that would raise the maximum fine from NT$500,000 to NT$2 million (US$16,195 to US$64,779) if hotel operators or home-stay service providers operate without a license or registration certificate.

Under the changes, Airbnb and other Web sites promoting the services of room-leasing operators would face fines of NT$60,000 to NT$2 million, with repeat fines possible.

The ministry’s amendments would hit the operations of Airbnb in Taiwan and its local partners, Singapore-based Airbnb public affairs manager Marvin Ma (馬培治) told the Taipei Times on the sidelines of an event in Taipei.

Airbnb plans to submit a protest to the ministry before the consultation period ends and most of the company’s local partners would also voice their concern, Ma said.

The company would try to open a dialogue with the ministry, Ma added.

“Airbnb is willing to discuss the regulations on home-sharing with the Taiwanese government,” Ma said, adding that they have been successful in 550 regions and cities worldwide, including Japan, Mexico and Denmark.

“Those countries adopted new regulations to cover Airbnb. The rules are different from those that regulate the conventional lodging industry,” Ma said.

Since 2016, Airbnb has faced regulatory challenges in Taiwan, as the ministry has implemented increasingly tougher penalties for those offering rentals on Airbnb, but for the first time the regulator is planning fines that target Airbnb, Ma said.

“It is a pity that Airbnb was excluded from discussions held between ministry officials and the conventional lodging industry on the regulatory changes,” Ma said.

“We did not ask for deregulation, as even this new style of home-sharing needs oversight, but the government should not impose the same regulations on us as on traditional accommodation providers,” he said.

It is difficult for Airbnb partners to obtain hotel licenses in Taiwan, as the rules are cumbersome, he said.

For example, hotels are required have parking lots and access-free facilities, and roads in front of hotels must be wider than 8m, which is not possible for most Airbnb rentals, he added.

Airbnb has seen its business in Taiwan steadily grow, with the number of inbound guests totaling 1.6 million last year, of which 1.05 million were foreign tourists, company data showed.

The global giant had about 11,000 partners and 35,000 listings in Taiwan as of the end of January, the data showed.

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