Safe to say, hoteliers in Hong Kong aren’t fans of the sharing economy.
Hong Kong hotels don’t want to share with Airbnb
A leading hotel business group in the city has hit back at Airbnb, calling for harsh punishments to be levied on home-sharing hosts.
The Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, which represents 90% of hotels in the city, has called on the government to come down harder on “illegal rentals” conducted through Airbnb.
The group’s executive director Michael Li Hon-shing said that hoteliers had each invested tens of millions in their businesses, and it was unfair to have to compete with Airbnb hosts.
“How is it different from robbery?” Li said at a press conference on Tuesday. “You might as well go for communism.”
Hong Kong is the most visited city in the world, attracting more than 27 million overnight visitors last year.
Similar to other places, the city has seen home-sharing services grow in popularity among travelers looking for cheap accommodations.
Hong Kong's Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance bans people from leasing out properties for less than 28 days without a license.
Although many of the 5,000 active Airbnb hosts in Hong Kong do not have a license, only a small number have been punished in the past.
Since the ordinance does not allow police to raid apartments without the occupants’ permission, investigations are usually carried out through undercover operations.
The government last year convicted offenders in 129 cases of unauthorized short-term rental.
During the same period, Airbnb recorded about 460,000 stays in the city, according to local newspaper Ming Pao.
Last month, a public relations manager at the San Francisco-based company urged Hong Kong to relax its restrictions on short-term rentals and embrace the sharing economy.
How to regulate Airbnb-style rentals has become a topic of heated debates in many cities across the world.
Advocates of tighter regulations say home-sharing sites contribute to housing shortages and pose a safety risk to guests.
A Singapore court on Tuesday fined two Airbnb hosts $45,800 each in its first case involving unauthorized short-term rentals.
In Hong Kong, it seems the hotels are also leading the debate.
The government has said it intended to propose a series of revisions to the hotel ordinance this year to make it easier to prosecute unlicensed rental operators.
Besides the hoteliers, taxi drivers in Hong Kong have also been strong opponents of the sharing economy.
Local cabbies have staged multiple protests against Uber in recent years to demand authorities crack down on the ride-hailing service.