Hotels renew calls to regulate Airbnb amid pandemic

TOURISM stakeholders in Cebu want the Department of Tourism (DOT) to include Airbnb regulation as it comes up with new policies under the new normal.

Alfred Reyes, vice president of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurants Association of Cebu, in a webinar said, now is the time for the DOT to reevaluate once again the home-sharing app while the tourism industry is still at a standstill.

“Hotels now have an edge over Airbnb with the investments we have put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic,” said Reyes.

He noted that since the Philippines stopped accepting tourists due to the coronavirus pandemic, hoteliers invested heavily in contactless technology, re-training of hotel staff and in cleaning and safety measures.

Failing to regulate Airbnb, Reyes said, will place the country’s tourism at a disadvantage as travelers will now put a premium on safety and cleanliness when choosing a destination to visit.

“With unregulated Airbnb, how can we make sure that proper hygiene is observed, and safety and health protocols and contact tracing are implemented?”

said Reyes.

Airbnb gained global popularity among tourists around the globe because of its wide array of properties which are offered at lower rates than hotels.

However, its presence in the Philippines, particularly in Cebu, is not giving hotel players in Cebu a level playing field. The home-sharing app is facing varying forms of treatment over its operations because of legal issues such as on pricing and taxes.

“In the Philippines, they are not paying taxes,” said Reyes.

Accommodation facilities being accredited by the DOT include hotels, resorts, apartment hotels, pension houses, motels, tourist inns and homestays.

Regain confidence

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat, in a separate webinar, said ensuring the strict protocol of operational guidelines and regulations will help regain tourists’ confidence.

“We must ensure that operational guidelines and regulations are strictly followed,” she said.

The DOT has released the latest memorandum circular on “Health and Safety Guidelines for Accommodation Establishments” on May 22, 2020.

The memorandum circular identified the following areas where public health standards shall be imposed—guest handling policy, reception and concierge, room and housekeeping, food and beverage service, kitchen sanitation and disinfection, public areas, hotel transport service, engineering and maintenance services, business practices and management, suppliers of goods and services and management of symptomatic guests.

In handling guests, hotels will have to make sure that guests complete their health declaration form upon checking in.

Guests will have to submit to body temperature checking using a thermal scanner at the hotel entrances.

The DOT also encouraged online payment upon booking.

Physical distancing measures, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette must be observed when handling guests at the check-in counter.

Physical distancing, wearing of face masks, and the proper handwashing/hand sanitizing practice must also be enforced. / KOC