Wed, Nov 20, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Airbnb, Olympics pact incurs Paris’ wrath


International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, left, and Airbnb cofounder Joe Gebbia speak at an event in London on Monday to announce Airbnb as a leading partner of the Olympics.

Photo: AFP

Airbnb Inc became a leading partner of the Olympics in a nine-year deal announced on Monday that drew strong criticism from Paris, host of the 2024 Summer Games.

In the deal unveiled in London, the home rental platform became a “Top” International Olympic Committee (IOC) partner, joining titans including Coca-Cola Co and Visa Inc on the highest sponsorship level.

However, in a letter sent last week and seen by Agence France-Presse on Monday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo warned IOC president Thomas Bach about the “risks” of the deal.

The socialist Hidalgo, who is up for re-election next year, vowed her “total determination” to tighten rules on tourist rentals in the French capital, which is also one of Airbnb’s biggest markets.

“By removing a significant number of lodgings from Paris, Airbnb contributes to rising rents and worsens the shortage of apartments on the rental market, at a cost for all Parisians, in particular the middle class,” Hidalgo wrote.

Later on Monday Hidalgo’s deputy said the mayor promised “to organize immediately after the elections a referendum” so that Parisians can decide “the conditions for usage by Airbnb” in the French capital.

Airbnb cofounder Joe Gebbia said that the IOC partnership “will ensure that the Games are the most inclusive, accessible and sustainable yet.”

He confirmed recently announced verification improvements to ensure customers’ safety after a deadly shooting at one of its Californian-listed homes.

The IOC revealed no financial details, but Bach said that the “landmark” deal would help to bring the Olympics into “the digital age.”

It “will provide accommodation that will reduce the cost for the Olympic Games organizers and all the stakeholders,” he said.

“It will minimize the need for [new] construction,” Bach said, adding that athletes would continue to stay in the Olympic village.

Airbnb said the deal would result in “hundreds of thousands of new hosts” and offer “Olympian Experiences” for Airbnb guests, such as spending time with an elite athlete.

Airbnb insisted that the partnership would benefit both visitors and hosts financially.

“We are not trying to limit the number of people that participate, particularly as hosts,” Airbnb senior vice president of global policy and communications Chris Lehane said.

“It’s a very different model than the traditional [hotels] accommodation sector... Their basic model is that you want to limit the number of rooms so that you can raise rates,” he said.

However, in her letter, Hidalgo accused the platform of “destabilizing local businesses and competing unfairly with traditional hotels.”

In a study published last month by Euromonitor International, the market research provider said that “short-term rentals have benefited from the consumer preference for authentic, local, off-the-beaten-track lodging options.”

“Hence the astronomical rise of Airbnb from a zero share 10 years ago, to 4 percent of global lodging, overtaking major hotel players,” it added.

The Airbnb-IOC partnership starts with Tokyo Summer Olympics next year, runs through the Beijing Winter Games two years later, the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games and ends with the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

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