Airbnb under fire by Hong Kong hotel industry

The Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, which represents 90% of businesses in the industry, stated that Airbnb was “simply illegal” and must be opposed “as a matter of principle”, while also stating that the service is not a direct competitor, the South China Morning Post reports.

And while the organisation may have a point in terms of the legality of the home-sharing service, as it's clearly lined out in the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance, premises that offer sleeping accommodation for a fee over a period less than 28 days must be licensed, critics argue that a free economy should stimulate competition, and licensing procedures should be easier, cheaper and faster to regulate the industry, rather than hinder it.

“Airbnb has been operating illegally under the disguise of a shared economy. But what have they really shared with the Hong Kong community?” Michael Li Hon-shing, the federation’s executive director reportedly asked.

The Federation additionally asked why efforts to tighten the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance, which began in 2014, had stalled.

The maximum punishment for violating the Ordinance is a HK$200,000 fine and two years’ imprisonment, and a number of cases have already successfully led to convictions.

A search by Marketing showed just over 300 available homes listed on Airbnb for Hong Kong, with a total of over 2,000 properties, the vast majority of which looked to be listings by licensed guest houses, while there were an 257 hotels, providing 74,000 rooms in March 2016, according to a government report. The average occupancy rate was 86% in 2015, and 83% in the first quarter of 2016.