AirBnB vs Amsterdam – an epic battle?


Amsterdam is a popular place to visit and AirBnB is a popular website to find a place to stay with locals is AirBnB. You would think these two are a marriage made in heaven and until recently this was the case. Amsterdam is one of the most popular destinations on AirBnB with offers ranging from rooms in beautiful canal houses or quirky canal boats. But all is not well in this happy marriage. The local government is cracking down on illegal hotels and find AirBnB a useful tool to find these places as reported by The Next Web.

A minor PR disaster was threatening for the city council: surely not an open-minded, creative and innovative city like Amsterdam is considering a ban on a successful internet service? Quickly the city’s pr machine tried to control this affair and blamed the bringer of the news of misrepresenting the facts, although it took them a while to make clear what those facts where. And AirBnB added their two cents too, not wanting to antagonize the Amsterdam powers-that-be and calling the article a piece of ‘sensationalism’.

Not deterred by these harsh words, the roving reporters of The Next Web dug a little deeper and uncovered the details. Details which the city officials find difficult to explain. Mmm, still sounds a mirky business. Basically you need a permit to rent out rooms or an apartment to tourists. Without permit, you can get a heavy fine. But the good city of Amsterdam doesn’t have enough man power to control all these illegal hotels. So it concentrates on the 300 most apparent offenders and uses AirBnB to find them.

The official hotels officially support this government policy, claiming that they want a level playing field and everybody on the market should comply to the same rules, i.e. having a permit, paying tourist taxes, abiding by health and safety rules. Anecdotal evidence shows however that some hotels use the B&B places when the hotels themselves are fully booked.

Does it mean you should avoid using AirBnB for finding a place to sleep in Amsterdam? That’s mostly up to your own conscience. But the number of places offered for Amsterdam on AirBnB is enourmous and you can select on gay friendly owners. Many of these apartments are legal, but you might want to make sure before you book and ask if they have a permit.

Update 23-2: there has been a meeting between AirBnB and the Amsterdam city government. The two have agreed to cooperate to ban illegal hotels from the AirBnB site. This should make AirBnB more reliable, while keeping this popular service available for the Amsterdam tourist market.



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