Raising the stakes

John Wagner George Sell Uploaded

The clash between Ufi Ibrahim of the British Hospitality Association and Airbnb's Patrick Robinson  in yesterday's meeting of the Business Innovation and Skills Committee raises some interesting questions.

While calling for tougher regulation for Airbnb hosts to try and bring them in line with hotels and serviced apartments, Ibrahim informed the Select Committee that the hospitality industry is "particularly concerned" that the UK's "trusted reputation as a high quality and safe tourist destination" could be damaged if guest health, safety and security checks are not properly delivered.

But does the Airbnb juggernaut have too much momentum for Parliament to apply the brakes, particularly when David Cameron and his cabinet are enthusiastic cheerleaders for the sharing economy? The government has even encouraged its employees to use sharing economy solutions to book accommodation and transport when travelling on official business.

Matthew Hancock, the UK's minister for Business, Enterprise and Energy, says of the likes of Airbnb: "These platforms have seen the emergence of the everyday entrepreneurs. They are the challengers, the innovators and the agitators - constantly seeking to shake up the market by solving other people's problems. We back them and we want to help them make our lives easier. We are removing barriers that stop people sharing their assets, and will empower people to make more from their assets and skills."

Ibrahim is to be applauded for her determination to fight the industry's case but we should be in no doubt that she is facing a tough battle in the face of the government's enthusiasm for the shiny new world of the sharing economy.


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