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Airbnb gives to tourism fund, but cuts into hotel occupancy rates

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The Hotel Montejo Palace has been gutted and is being renovated on the Paseo de Montejo. Photo: Lee Steele

Mérida, Yucatán — The digital home-sharing platform Airbnb will contribute up to 8 million pesos to the state’s tourism promotion budget, the local hotel association estimates.

But Hector Navarrete Medina, president of the Mexican Hotel Association of Yucatán, expressed frustration that legislation to further regulate Airbnb rentals has gone nowhere. He has cast a wary eye toward Airbnb and similar online rental platforms, which nominally compete with hotels without the same overhead costs.

His group successfully lobbied for a 3 percent lodging tax on Airbnb revenue, which raised 44 million pesos at the end of 2017. The tax is expected to fuel the state tourism budget to the tune of 50 million pesos in 2018.

Hotels and vacation-home owners all depend on the state to reach out to potential visitors.

“We have asked the government to match that amount for promotion of the destinations of Yucatan,” added the Yucatecan businessman.

Airbnb rentals have taken a chunk of business from the hotel sector, said Navarrete Medina. In January and February, occupancy was down 4 percent over the same period in 2017, he said.

“The number of rooms that are available on the Airbnb platform already exceeds 4,000 and this is affecting the hotels,” he said.

New hotel rooms have also been built at a breakneck pace. Previously, Navarrete Medina had admitted that it will be a challenge to keep occupancy rates up when 12 new hotels — with a combined 2,100 rooms — open this year.

But on Tuesday he kept pressure on state lawmakers to regulate Airbnb homes the way hotels are — on grounds of safety and health. That could serve as a reminder about the hazards of unregulated rental properties.

A family of four was found dead last week when a faulty water heater in their rented Akulmal condo apparently leaked deadly gases.

“The state Congress has not approved the law that hoteliers proposed to regulate and guarantee Airbnb services. It is urgent that this be resolved,” he said.

With information from Sipse

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