By Matthew Glendinning
The mayor of Paris has sent a letter to IOC president Thomas Bach warning of the “risks” inherent in the recently-signed Olympic sponsorship with the accommodation marketplace Airbnb.
Airbnb was unveiled on Monday as a Worldwide Olympic Partner in the exclusive category of ‘Unique Accommodation Products and Unique Experiences Services’ and in a deal running until 2028.
In the letter, which was seen by AFP, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo expressed her “total determination to make sure regulations relating to rental platforms are reinforced” in Paris, host of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
Hidalgo also said she could make short-term tourist rentals against the law in some parts of the city.
Hidalgo explained: “By removing a significant number of lodgings from Paris, Airbnb contributes to rising rents and worsens the shortage of apartments on the rental market, at a cost for all Parisians, in particular the middle class.”
The platform was also accused of “destabilising local businesses and competing harshly with traditional hotels”.
At Monday’s announcement of the Airbnb deal, Bach defended the brand against criticism that the platform was pricing people out of cities.
“It is quite normal that such a disruptive business then needs to settle and needs regulation. This is happening in a dialogue with Airbnb and cities and countries,” Bach said.
Earlier this year, the mayor’s office released findings which revealed that the share of unoccupied housing in Paris had jumped by three points, from 14.1 per cent to 17 per cent, over the last five years.
The main reason cited was the boom in tourist rentals driven by dedicated internet platforms. The phenomenon slows the supply of sustainable housing in Paris and causes a decrease in the number of inhabitants, the report said.
According to the same report, the city does not seek to prohibit individuals from occasionally renting their homes, but will fine platforms, like AirBnb, that offer to rent housing that has already been rented 120 days in the year.
Paris took legal action against Airbnb this year in a bid to have the company fined €12.5m ($13.8m) for allowing owners to rent their properties without having them properly registered.
Airbnb invoked European law that would exempt the platform from monitoring user activity. The Court of Justice of the European Union should decide on the case in 2020.
According to the Financial Times newspaper, the deal with Airbnb is worth $500m (€452m) over the nine-year term. This covers three Summer and two Winter Olympic Games in five major cities: Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022, Paris 2024, Milan-Cortina 2026 and Los Angeles 2028.
It is reported that, along with a significant rights fee, the $500m total takes into account the cost of services that Airbnb will provide, including free accommodation for athletes and executives.
The views of the Paris authorities on Airbnb may run counter to those of smaller event host cities, such as Eugene, Oregon, hosts of the World Athletics Championship in 2021. The city has roughly 200 hotel rooms constructed as of today and would likely need 12,000 to accommodate all of the visitors to the event.
Matthew Glendinning is an editor at Sport Business Group.