By Stelios Orphanides
THE share of European Union citizens who booked accommodation and transport services online via ‘any website or an app’ from another private individual in the past 12 months was 17 per cent and eight per cent respectively, the European Commission’s statistical office said.
Travellers from the UK, Cyprus’ largest source of incoming tourism, were the keenest EU citizens to opt for a ‘peer-to-peer’ booking for their accommodation and transport via any website or an app, Eurostat said in a statement on its website. The share of UK citizens who did so was 34 per cent and 27 per cent respectively in the past 12 months.
The Luxembourgians and Irish were second and third most-likely to book their accommodation online from other individuals with 22 per cent and 21 per cent respectively, it said. The share of Estonians and Irish who booked their travel service that way was 20 per cent and 17 per cent respectively which was again the second and third-highest.
The percentage of EU citizens and Britons who booked their accommodation via a dedicated website or app from other peers was in the past 12 months 14 per cent and 31 per cent respectively.
The share of those who also booked their travel arrangements via dedicated websites or apps was seven per cent and 24 per cent respectively.
The Cyprus Hotel Association, a business group which represents the largest number of Cypriot hotel owners and operators, said that its members are alarmed at the new trend, which includes services provided by Airbnb, Lovehomeswap, Bed&Fed, Homeaway, and Rooorama to name a few.
This is a threat which “entails risks and constitutes a form of unfair competition,” said Zacharias Ioannides, director general of the Cyprus Hotel Association.
“This is out of control, there are no controls or inspection of accommodation of this type in essential areas such as health and safety,” he said in a telephone interview.
“Major cities abroad have introduced legislation which provides registration,” he said and asked Cypriot authorities to do more to tackle the phenomenon as, unlike lawful hotel units, operators of this type of accommodation pay no taxes to the government or local authorities.
In addition, he said, the hotel industry invests in services and facilities not offered by this type of accommodation platform, he said.
The association has included ‘digital revolution and benchmarking’ on its agenda for its next annual general meeting on February 13, Ioannides added.
While the Eurostat data does not reveal how many travellers booked their accommodation in Cyprus or their transport to Cyprus from other individuals, it shows that Cypriots are in general far behind the trend.
The share of Cypriots who booked their accommodation from other individuals online was only four per cent in the past 12 months, the second lowest after the Czechs with one per cent.
And when it came to booking transportation, the percentage of those who used a website or app to do so was one per cent, the lowest in the EU.