Prague is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. However, though visitor numbers are rising, the occupancy rate of the city’s hotels in July fell by over four percent. According to the Czech Association of Hotels and Restaurants, shared accommodation platforms, such as Airbnb, are mainly to blame.
In recent years, Prague has become one of the most popular destinations for Airbnb travellers. Airbnb’s share of overnight stays in the Czech capital reached 14.9 percent last year, an increase by 4.7 percent from 2016. With a total number of 1.79 million overnight stays, Prague came out ahead of such cities as London, Amsterdam or Berlin in this regard.
One of the areas where most flats are rented out is the city centre Prague 1. Now councillors in the district have launched a petition calling for tougher regulation of shared accommodation services, such as Airbnb.
The initiators of the campaign say the sharing of private homes has turned into a regular business. However, unlike hotels and other accommodation facilities, it is not subject to strict regulation:
There are currently around 3,500 to 5,000 apartments rented via shared accommodation services in Prague 1 alone. Prague 1 local councillors complain that noise moves from the streets into apartment buildings, with many tourists having parties indoors, which is of course a problem for the regular tenants.
They also say there are many buildings where there are only one or two original tenants left, which ultimately leads to the depopulation of the whole district.
The Czech Republic’s tax collection agency has recently accessed and compiled data on people renting out property through Airbnb and started looking into whether they are meeting their obligations.
Apart from back payments, the tax authority also plans to impose penalties of up to 40 percent. Meanwhile, Prague municipality can also charge Airbnb hosts a penalty of up to 500,000 crowns for falling to register for local taxes.
But Prague 1 local councillors say financial regulation is just one part of the problem. They are calling on the city of Prague and other state authorities to look into the ways other cities and countries are dealing with the problem.
The initiators of the campaign would like apartment owners to have more say when it comes to deciding about their building, as is already common in many other countries.
The mayor of Prague 1, Oldřich Lomecký, agrees that stricter regulation is necessary, but he also points out that it has to respect private ownership. One of the measures he favours is a limit on the sharing of private homes to 60 days.