Hotel owners in Greece demanded that the government intervene to impose restrictions on the growth of the Airbnb sector, which has exploded in recent years, in the country.
Tourism is Greece’s most important economic activity, accounting for at least a fifth of the country’s economy. Short-term rentals account for about fourteen percent of tourism activity, with revenue reaching an estimated €3.37 billion this year, and growing at an annual pace of fifteen percent.
Local authorities and Greek hoteliers complain that this unregulated activity has negatively impacted cities in many ways. Housing shortages are just one of them, they say.
The explosion of Airbnb rentals means “soaring rents for families, doctors leaving the islands because they can’t find a home, and professors and teachers sleeping in cars,” President of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels Alexandros Vasilikos said at an event on Monday.
“Whole areas are losing their character, while the permanent residents experience insecurity on a daily basis since there are no controls,” he added.
The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels presented a study by accounting and advisory firm Grant Thornton, which notes that short-term rentals are, on average, five times higher than long-term ones; that foregone tax revenue, €160.6 million in 2016, is estimated to have nearly doubled to €316.7 million in 2022.
Greek hoteliers propose measures to curb the growth of Airbnb
The Chamber proposed a number of measures that it argues would regulate the market for Airbnb including:
- a maximum limit of their operation to 90 days per year throughout the whole country, and to 60 days per year on islands with less than ten thousand inhabitants or in areas with a low average occupancy of the main hotel accommodations
- banning new Airbnb accommodations located in demarcated parts of the urban centers, when it is established that Airbnbs exceed fifty percent of the residences that are owned or leased for long-term rental
- limits on the number of properties to rent short-term to a maximum of two unless the owner is a legal entity
- establishment of minimum operational specifications with provisions made, among other things, for an area of at least 10 square meters for the room and 18 square meters for the apartment; to have natural lighting, ventilation and heating, with a maximum number of rooms, and hygiene and fire safety certification
“We are too late in dealing with the phenomenon [of short-term rentals] compared to the rest of Europe and the social costs are becoming really unbearable for the citizens,” Vasilikos said. “There is no scope for prolonging this situation.”
“The immediate intervention of the government is imperative for a fair regulation of short-term lease,” he added.
Government confirms that will introduce new laws
Minister of Tourism Vassilis Kikilias confirmed that the government is looking at introducing new laws to regulate the market for Airbnbs.
“Short-term rentals are part of our tourism product,” Kikilas told event participants on Monday. “For the proper functioning of healthy competition, but also for the proper functioning of our urban centers, the government is working on a framework for the short-term rental market.”
“This framework will separate those who rent out bulk properties versus the majority who rent out one or two properties,” he added.