In a surprise move announced late last week, Amsterdam has banned short-term accommodation rentals including the popular flatshare service Airbnb from operating in the three districts that make up its historical center. The ban takes effect this Wednesday, July 1.
In other areas of the Dutch capital, short-term accommodation rentals will be allowed but strictly regulated: special permits allowing owners to lease apartments for short-term rentals will be required, and apartments will only be allowed to lease to short-term tenants for 30 days out of the year, for groups of a maximum of four people.
A violation of the new ban could result in a maximum fine of up to 20,750 euros (550,000 crowns).
Both Amsterdam’s city council and residents have long complained about the surge of tourists in the city center brought on by short-term accommodation platforms, and the disruption they bring to the local landscape. According to officials, 1 out of every 15 private apartments in Amsterdam is listed for rent on short-term accommodation platforms.
A similar situation, of course, has long been brewing in Prague. Might the Czech capital follow Amsterdam’s lead?
City officials may already be on their way. The first step may have already been taken earlier in June, when Prague asked the Czech government to amend the country’s Trade Licensing Act to allow cities to better regulate short-term accommodation rentals.
Earlier this year, Prague joined 10 cities (including Amsterdam) in calling for the EU to improve the legislative framework surrounding short-term accommodation platforms such as Airbnb. Should the Czech government amend the Trade Licensing Act, however, EU intervention would not be required.
Prague has also expressed a desire to change its image from a den of stag parties and alcotourism to a more cultured destination. Last month, city officials unveiled a new plan for sustainable tourism and quality of life for residents.
Regulating short-term accommodation rentals such as Airbnb would certainly help with quality-of-life changes that city center locals have long been pining for.
But would a drastic move like the one Amsterdam has implemented work in Prague?
If implemented soon, it could greatly help Prague’s struggling local hotel industry rebound from the coronavirus crisis.
It would also provide Czech health officials a better system for tracking incoming tourists and monitoring new coronavirus cases. A recent law mandating Airbnb landlords share tenant data with Czech health authorities was (presumably) only valid under the previous state of emergency, which ended late last month.
In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, businesses in Prague’s city center have adjusted to accommodate locals by offering more affordable meals and slashing beer prices by 50%. But shouldn’t this always be the case?
Prague rental prices and real estate costs have soared over the past five years, and by the end of last year, more than 25% of Prague apartments in the historical center were being rented out on short-term accommodation platforms like Airbnb.
But if the future of the city is to be one that accommodates its residents rather than tourists, some big changes might be on the horizon.