Airbnb draws scrutiny as hotels seek fairness
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Airbnb draws scrutiny as hotels seek fairness

Safety, legal concerns cloud picture for site

Tourists walk past an elephant at the ruins of the ancient capital of Ayutthaya on Dece 25, 2015. (Reuters photo)
Tourists walk past an elephant at the ruins of the ancient capital of Ayutthaya on Dece 25, 2015. (Reuters photo)

The Tourism and Sports Ministry has joined with the Interior Ministry to impose measures to supervise business fairness and safety for tourists who book daily rental accommodations via the Airbnb website.

Surapong Techaruvichit, president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said owners who rent their condo units, resort homes and shared rooms on a daily basis using the Airbnb website should be considered in violation of the Hotel Act, as they rent their accommodations for less than 30 days and lack a hotel licence.

At present, it is unclear whether the service facilitated by the Airbnb website violates Thai law.

Kobkarn: Tax liability a key issue to resolve

The THA has asked the government to require any individual wishing to advertise his or her accommodations for short-term rental to register for a business licence.

"If this proposal leads to a new rule or an amendment of the Hotel Act of 2004, the Airbnb business will probably violate Thai law," Mr Surapong said.

Airbnb has more than 1.5 million listings of rental accommodations in 34,000 cities and 190 countries.

Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said the government wanted fair competition to prevail in the hospitality business.

"Tax payment is a key issue to consider in the Airbnb situation because the website, accommodation owners and tenants should pay the same tax as hotel operators in Thailand," she said.

Mrs Kobkarn voiced concern about the safety of tourists who stay in rental accommodations booked via Airbnb. Hoteliers typically record tourist information for safety purposes.

"We don't want to set any barrier to doing business, as long as it is fair and legitimate," Mrs Kobkarn said.

But offering a daily rental without a hotel licence is illegal, she added, and thus the problem will be a focus after the ministry resolves existing problems surrounding tour agent nominees.

The latter issue has centred on Phuket, but many nominees are also running tour businesses illegally in Pattaya, said Wittaya Khunpluem, president of the Provincial Administrative Organisation in Chon Buri.

He said Thai tour operators acting as proxies for foreign tour agents had reportedly sold fake Buddha amulets and overpriced souvenirs to Chinese travellers.

Pattaya also has traffic congestion and flooding problems in need of attention, he said.

"Pattaya is very crowded, and therefore we need to promote new destinations to not only relieve massive tourist numbers but also re-imagine the resort town," Mr Wittaya said.

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