A solution to overtourism? Introducing the ethical alternative to Airbnb

With hotspots groaning below the burden of tourism and rents hovering as vacation lets take over, overtourism is extra problematic than ever. Enter Fairbnb, a brand new platform that places the advantages of tourism again into the fingers of native communities

In early 2020, with flights grounded and nations in lockdown, few might think about what journey in a post-Covid world may appear like. However simply three years later, tourism is again with a bang, and in some ways larger than ever. Within the first quarter of 2023, worldwide arrivals reached 80 per cent of pre-pandemic ranges, and 235 million individuals made an abroad journey – double the figures of 2022. 

Removed from relaunching in a greener, extra sustainable guise, nevertheless, journey has largely gone again to enterprise as standard – with the identical previous issues of visitors, air pollution, environmental injury and overtourism. 

Particularly, the pandemic has exacerbated the ‘Airbnb impact’, through which rising demand for short-term vacation lets and staycations has pushed up rents and disrupted communities by forcing locals to maneuver someplace extra inexpensive. Many locations – together with Barcelona, Amsterdam and Venice – are taking steps to discourage extra guests, in some circumstances by banning short-term lets altogether.

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Overtourism has pushed many Venetians into leaving the previous city. Picture: Cristina Gottardi

However, in line with entrepreneur Emanuele Dal Carlo, there’s one other manner. As co-founder of the Italy-based startup Fairbnb, he’s made it his mission to deal with the Airbnb impact head-on. 

Like reserving.com, Trivago, Airbnb and others, Fairbnb is an OBE (on-line reserving engine): a web site that facilitates on-line lodging reservations. However there’s an enormous distinction. Whereas most OBEs impose few, if any, limits on the quantity, nature or location of their listings with the intention to maximise income, Fairbnb’s method is as a substitute “powered by individuals, activists and organisations, not faceless buyers”. Because of this earlier than launching in an space, the location negotiates with a neighborhood host who acts as an ‘ambassador’, to ascertain what number of vacationers the group may need, or is ready to help. Limits are then positioned on the variety of listings, with precedence given to locally-based hosts. 

Every property can also be vetted to make sure it complies with security requirements and authorized rules, addressing a key concern with short-term lets, which get pleasure from a way more lax regulatory regime in comparison with long-term tenancies, B&Bs or resorts. What’s extra, half the 15 per cent fee charged by the location funds group initiatives within the space the place the lodging is predicated – from neighbourhood clean-ups to homelessness charities, urban gardens, social inclusion schemes and initiatives towards food waste.

ethical alternative airbnb

Ever wished to sleep in a tiny home? Fairbnb has you coated. Picture: Fairbnb

“As a Venetian, tourism has all the time been in my life,” Dal Carlo explains. “However the place the season was once quick, just some months of the 12 months, it’s now turn out to be nearly our solely business in Venice. Our communities have modified profoundly in consequence. I wished to do one thing about that, and that’s the place the concept for Fairbnb started.”

In contrast to the large OBEs, Dal Carlo’s goals aren’t exponential enlargement or world domination. As a substitute, he sees the location as a paradigm for a unique sort of tourism – one which’s extra delicate and aware of native wants, somewhat than oblivious to them. 

“Tourism is usually a extremely extractive business when left to its personal gadgets. Our mannequin is totally different. Now we have three pillars: each itemizing should be lawful, each itemizing should be acceptable, and each itemizing should give one thing again. We’re establishing a brand new sort of tourism that locations individuals and communities first, somewhat than revenue.” 

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Fairbnb launched in 2019 in three cities: Venice, Amsterdam, and Bologna. It’s since expanded throughout Europe, with the primary UK properties going dwell in 2023. There are at the moment round 2,500 listings on the location – a drop within the ocean in comparison with the tens of 1000’s on Airbnb – however Fairbnb’s attain is rising because the phrase spreads. Finally, Dal Carlo hopes the location will present a substitute for the primary reserving websites wherever there’s the demand for it.

And that demand may simply be not far away. Some cities, corresponding to Edinburgh, at the moment are introducing strict regulations for short-term lets, corresponding to having to show the existence of public legal responsibility insurance coverage and taking hearth and fuel security precautions. These new necessities might lead to an 80 per cent discount in Airbnb listings, predicts the Scottish metropolis’s council. Will Fairbnb be capable to climate the potential storm? 

“In a way,” says Dal Carlo, “we could also be much more inclined to those restrictions as we take compliance very significantly. Nevertheless, our platform’s concentrate on numerous lodging choices, together with B&Bs, locally-owned resorts, tenting websites, farmhouses, and so forth., offers a diversified portfolio that would assist us climate potential challenges within the short-term rental market.” He provides that if new rules favour accountable, sustainable and native hosts over bigger, impersonal buyers, then they are going to be well-positioned to capitalise on the shifting short-term let panorama. 

It’s not about stopping journey. It’s about discovering a manner for us all to journey higher

One host who’s impressed by the platform’s ethos is Giuseppe Cerone. Initially from Basilicata, an space of Italy that’s suffered badly from inhabitants decline and unemployment over current many years, he was impressed by the corporate’s dedication to community-driven tourism, and has joined the corporate as its advertising coordinator. 

“For me, journey is about exchanging concepts,” he says. “Folks need to join with a spot and really feel their go to helps, somewhat than doing hurt. If you stick with somebody on Fairbnb, you get a a lot deeper perception into what native life is like. It feels extra like staying with a pal. As a bunch, that’s after I know I’ve completed my job effectively.” 

“It’s so necessary to consider the influence we now have on the locations we go to,” provides Kevin Ponzuoli, an everyday traveller who has used the location to e book current journeys to Calabria and Portugal. “By reserving with Fairbnb somewhat than the opposite websites, I’m making a contribution, somewhat than simply taking one thing away, and that feels good.”

alternative to airbnb

Edinburgh was the primary metropolis in Scotland to limit the usage of properties for short-term lets. Picture: Iann Castelein

Fairbnb plans to develop quickly over the subsequent few years, with launches deliberate in Canada, Poland, Germany, Croatia, Montenegro and different locations. An app is within the works, and the location is at the moment operating discounted fee charges in an effort to draw new prospects. 

Dal Carlo and his crew are notably enthusiastic about Fairbnb’s potential in growing locations, the place he hopes its community-driven ethos might help locals construct a extra equitable mannequin of tourism from the beginning, somewhat than merely attempting to undo the issues of the previous.

“Finally, I need us to have an effect,” says Dal Carlo. “Not for the success of the challenge, or to get wealthy or distribute thousands and thousands. Basically, Fairbnb is a unique manner of doing tourism. It’s not about stopping journey. It’s about discovering a manner for us all to journey higher. It’s actually so simple as that.”

Primary picture: Ross Helen