Airbnb willing to make concessions in Singapore: Top exec

Strict rules in Singapore make the city state one of the toughest markets in which Airbnb operates.
Strict rules in Singapore make the city state one of the toughest markets in which Airbnb operates.PHOTO: REUTERS

Home-booking company Airbnb is willing to make some concessions on short-term rentals in Singapore in an attempt to appease government concerns, a top executive said yesterday.

Strict rules in the city-state make it one of the toughest markets in which Airbnb operates. Two men were charged late last year over unauthorised short-term letting of apartments.

Mr Chris Lehane, Airbnb's head of global policy, told Reuters that the company had managed to make great progress in other markets, such as China and Cuba.

"We feel optimistic that as the Government looks around and sees the 400-plus partnerships that have been done, that if we can figure this out in Cuba, we should be able to figure it out in Singapore."

When asked for comments, Singapore's Ministry of National Development referred Reuters to a comment by its minister in late January which indicated that the Government would seek public feedback around March or April on how to regulate short-term letting of property.

Mr Lehane declined to confirm whether he was due to meet government officials while in Singapore.

Private homes in Singapore are subject to a minimum rental period of three consecutive months, while it is six months for public housing, home to about 80 per cent of the country's residents.

Airbnb said it has told the Government that, if asked, it would not list public housing on the platform.

"We have so many examples from around the world, where there are different pieces that you could put into a framework that could work here, understanding that there are unique pieces here," Mr Lehane said.

He cited examples of Chicago's "three strikes" policy, which bars hosts who repeatedly break the rules, while in New Orleans the company agreed to not list accommodation in the French Quarter.

Mr Lehane said the company would also consider putting a cap on the number of days hosts in Singapore can rent out their property.

A registration system for hosts, which the company has put in place in other markets, would also help the Government address any issues that may crop up, he added.

While Singapore is not a large market for Airbnb, it serves as its headquarters for the Asia-Pacific.

About 15,000 people stayed in Airbnb listings for the Winter Olympics in South Korea last month.

In China, its business got a boost during the Chinese New Year holidays, when millions of people travelled across the country.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2018, with the headline 'Airbnb willing to make concessions in S'pore: Top exec'. Print Edition | Subscribe