15 April 2016. Santiago, Chile. First it was’s Uber’s turn. Now another California tech firm, AirBnB, has incurred the wrath of traditional Chilean business.
The past couple of weeks have seen traditional taxis take their complaints with Uber to court, to the legislature, and to the streets, where some have attacked Uber drivers.
Now hoteliers have joined the battle against foreign apps that threaten traditional businesses.
AirBnB, in case you don’t know, is a website and app that lets people rent private rooms, shared rooms, or entire houses by the day, week, or month. It’s not a direct competitor to hotels, as hotels are not usually listed there. Instead it is a convenient alternative for those who are looking for some place to stay other than a hotel. It is a way to connect short term renters with those who want to rent their houses and apartments short term, a market that has long existed in non electronic form.
One thing you notice about AirBnB when you use it here in Chile is that compared to other countries there are fewer properties listed here. For example, in some smaller towns where tourists go in large numbers you might see just one rental. But it is definitely growing and is particularly well-suited for Chile’s largest beach destinations, like Viña del Mar, where there has long been a market for vacation rentals. To date that market has mainly worked through Chilean web sites like Trovit. But that is for all kinds of properties, including ones for sale.
Summer here in the Southern Hemisphere runs from late December to early March. That is when Argentines pour over the border to crowd the beaches. The traffic gets so bad in the major tourist region, directly West of Santiago, running all the way from the port of San Antonio north to ConCon, that many Chileans abandon their beach houses and apartments and rent them out to tourists who are clamoring for some place to stay.
Chile’s coast is several thousand kilometers long. But most of it is empty, a situation the foreigner finds puzzling. Instead the people and houses are all piled on top of one another in small areas. For the summer vacation the major spots are Viña del Mar, Iquique, and La Serena.
AirBnB has been a smashing success around the world bringing together people who want to rent their house or apartment to tourists and tourists who need a place to stay.
In Chile, the hotels and tourist organizations launched a formal complaint this week taking out a full-page ad saying that AirBnB owners and users are not paying taxes, are operating without regulation, and even endangering the security of their guests.
Of course that last comment is just an exaggeration as someone can be attacked in a hotel too. To reduce the chance of that, or any other bad experience, such as fraud, AirBnB lets guests register complaints or glowing comments for each place they stay, where everyone can read those.
La Tercera reports that AirBnB was forced to respond to complaints from the Chilean Federation of Tourism Businesses and Hotels of Chile. In a statement Uber said, “We are 100% committed to working with Chilean authorities in a regulatory framework that is beneficial for both our community and the cities where they reside.”
The Chilean tourist organizations asked that the government step in and regulate AirBnB. Their director said that “In summer we have had an increase of 40% of people coming from Argentina, but one presumes they have opted for other types of informal housing (Because hotel numbers have not risen at the same rate.).”
The minister of the economy said that they would update the regulations but not in an manner that would kill off the budding technology.
AirBnB has two copycat competitors here in Chile, Niumba and Sinbad. Sindab told the newspaper that they have 1 million registered users, which does not seem plausible in a country of only 17 people people, Argentines not withstanding. But both sites list lots of properties for rent.
Puertecillo, remote beach for the upper classes and surfers.
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