A ‘co-ordinated’ email campaign spearheaded by Airbnb in an effort to ingratiate itself to Scottish politicians has backfired, with many of the recipients doubling down in their calls for tighter regulation of the short-term rental market.
MSPs from across the Lothians region, where the growth of Airbnb in particular has become a hot political potato, have seen their inboxes deluged by similarly formatted messages headlined ‘I want to tell you about my Airbnb host story’ – all apparently penned by private homeowners pleading for the status quo.
One such recipient, Green MSP Andy Wightman, said: “This co-ordinated campaign from Airbnb reveals that many of its clients are currently operating outside of the law. The growth in short-term lets in Edinburgh is out of control, resulting in a loss of community, reduction in housing supply and an increase in anti-social behaviour. I will continue to speak up for my constituents who are faced with this unregulated activity often conducted in breach of the law.”
Airbnb denies authoring the messages, insisting that they are a spontaneous upswelling of resistance from individual hosts, who now number 17,000 across Scotland. A spokeswoman said: “We believe these families should have the opportunity to share — in their own words — how home sharing supports them and how clear, fair and proportionate rules can support people-powered tourism that benefits everyone.”
The emails follow reports that tighter regulation could be on the cards for Edinburgh which is struggling to cope with a tourism boom that has fed spiralling house prices, anti-social behaviour and damage to common closes.
The crackdown comes despite Airbnb partnering with VisitBritain to promote the UK's local tourism offer.