British tourism has been in something of a rut for many years now. The idea that we can stay anywhere has opened the world to so many new possibilities. You can be in the middle of London on a Wednesday, staying in a luxury penthouse one night, and then out in the country in an oast cottage the next. Sounds ideal right? It’s something that many of us fantasised about back in the days when hotels dominated constantly and the chances of actually getting to visit somewhere cool depended almost entirely on the size of your wallet. We love the freedom that it provides, we love the fact that we are almost free from all restrictions now. All it takes is someone willing to rent out their property, and someone willing to stay there. Have that magic combination and anywhere in the country is open to you.
And yet, it’s also killing the industry. We mean really, really killing it. The chances of you being able to go to some of the best hotels when you want to is dying, if you class the best as being the friendliest and the most interesting. The chains will continue to do well. No one is driving the Hilton out of business any time soon, that’s for sure. When you need to find accommodation at the last moment, where better to go to than one of the many big hotels that everyone has heard of. We bet you can name half a dozen right now, without even having to search or think about it for more than a minute. And why is this? Because there there in your mind, seared in as the reliable if ultimately dreadfully dull staples. They are the plain white rice of the travel industry, but sometimes all you want is sustenance. Sometimes all you want is a bed and a roof over your head.
No, it’s not these that will die off. Instead it’s independents, places of character. Those sorts of places really don’t stand a chance. Why is that? Well, it’s simple really. Because they can’t compete, not with the Air BNBs of this world, the ones that are choosing to exploit every loophole in the system to drive their prices down. That’s all it takes, it seems. People don’t care enough about businesses to ensure that the right ones succeed. They just want to save themselves some money and be done with it. That’s all it takes for them to go from speaking highly of every great little place that they come across to supporting these new invaders.
You might think that we’re being especially harsh here. After all, it’s surely up to the public to decide. If they pick the cheaper option, so be it. We have no right to impose our view of nicety upon the rest of the world. To that we say, of course. Of course. That makes perfect sense. The problem isn’t that people are choosing the cheaper option, it’s the method that’s being used to make that option cheaper in the first place. The idea of being able to simply drop everything and make your accommodation cheaper because its unregulated is, frankly, awful. It flies in the face of why those regulations exist in the first place. To protect consumers from the unscrupulous, to ensure that housing is available.
Ask anyone in London, where thousands of properties have been caught unofficially becoming hotels, renting themselves out for long periods at a time through these booking sites. This is normally called subletting and is very heavily regulated. The thing is, if you do it through these new crowdsourced sites, it’s not that at all, not in the eyes of the law. No it’s something relatively innocent, a simple transaction between two citizens. And the government doesn’t want to poke their nose into that.
In reality though, these places are hotels. If you live in a 5 bedroom house and rent 4 of those rooms out for the majority of the year, whilst cleaning them in between having people stay, you are a hotel. There’s no 2 ways about it, no loophole. You are a hotel, and what you are doing is immoral and wrong. You are lowering the price you have to pay purely by ignoring all the systems that have been put in place to stop that from happening. Essentially, you are stealing a wage from those in the industry that really do care, that really do put the work in. How is that fair? So we beseech you. Don’t use these con artists. Don’t let people like that ruin the fabric of our country. It’s just not worth it, and if we don’t find a way to stop it soon, it will be too late.