Greece’s hoteliers are up in arms over a government decision to include Airbnb-style accommodations in its annual “Tourism for All” program which subsidizes holidays for low-income families.
Greek hotel and lodging associations are claiming the decision is creating unfair market conditions and are reiterating their call on the government to take immediate action and regulate short-term rentals.
Additionally, they are requesting that in addition to transparency with regard to taxation, Airbnb-type accommodation facilities should be subject to the same rules as hotels, in terms of safety, cleanliness and labor laws.
“Hotels operate under specific laws, must obtain specific licenses and meet specific specifications for which they are strictly controlled by the state in order to ensure the level of services provided to customers based on category of accommodation,” said Hellenic Hoteliers Federation (POX) President Grigoris Tasios.
“If the Greek state wishes to include short-term rentals in the country’s tourism product, it should first formulate a clear regulatory framework that will exclude the possibility of illegal accommodations operating under the guise of short-term rentals,” said Tasios, adding that a legislative framework must be put in place ensuring the minimum level of services provided, hygiene and safety as well as specific tax obligations similar to those that apply to legally licensed businesses.
Along the same lines, the Greek Confederation of Tourist Accommodation Enterprises (SETKE), which represents some 33,000 small accommodation facilities including room rental services providers and their local federations, said on Monday that the decision to subsidize Airbnbs under the “Tourism for All” scheme is unfair and “rewards short-term rentals that are not subject to any legislative framework, do not follow health and safety regulations, are not financially burdened with obligations towards the state, contrary to what applies to legal tourist accommodation providers”.
“We urge the tourism ministry to reconsider the inclusion of short-term rentals in the ‘Tourism for All’ program, or to request that these rentals operate under the same terms and conditions as other hospitality facilities with the issue of a special operating license,” said SETKE.
Echoing Tasios, the Athens-Attica & Argosaronic Hotel Association (EXAAA) also issued a statement on Monday expressing its dissatisfaction with the decision.
“The government decision to support and strengthen continuously and in various ways short-term rentals instead of restricting these and setting out conditions and specifications for their operation, troubles and worries us,” said EXAAA, adding that legally-operating hospitality services providers in Athens have had to face the uncontrolled operation of Airbnb-style facilities over the last decade.
The association goes on to add that it “expects the ministries of tourism and finance, regional authorities and municipalities and every relevant body and service to cooperate, to comprehend the issues impacting tourism and hotels in Athens over the last decade” and to take responsible actions towards creating fair playing ground.
Earlier this year, the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), representing the majority of Greece’s tourism enterprises, reiterated its call on the government to take immediate action and amend the law which covers short-term rental operations in order to ensure fair play and protect tax-paying businesses. Among others it proposed VAT, a special municipal tax, a property cap and rental time limits as ways to regulate Airbnb-style activities which, it said, are distorting healthy market competition.
In the last decade, Airbnbs across Greece have mushroomed, initially as a way for crisis-hit Greeks to make a living. Today whole neighborhoods in Athens have become exclusively short-term rental areas. The once buzzing Athens neighborhood of Psyrri is a case in point, coming back to life as more and more buyers invest in short-term rentals, boutique hotels and accommodation facilities there.
Indicatively, in March 2022, bookings for Airbnbs across Greece for the summer were up by 232 percent placing Greece in the lead in Europe in terms of overall booking performance.