Speaking as leading home-exchange website Airbnb unveiled a major re-launch, BHA legal and policy director Jackie Grech said there was a need for stricter controls on health, safety and security checks in the home-sharing sector.
“We want everyone to enjoy British hospitality. We need to ensure that every consumer should be assured that regardless of the type of accommodation they purchase, that they will receive the same standards of protection from unnecessary risk,” she said.
“When private homes are rented to tourists, it's unlikely that these properties have ever had any fire risk or health and safety checks.
“76% of fire deaths in the UK last year were in the home and if you have strangers staying there who aren't familiar with how things work, the risks could increase.”
In a bid to improve safety and standards, the BHA has called on home-exchange websites to take responsibility for ensuring that home owners on their books adhere to fire regulations, attend to proper maintenance of gas boilers, appliances and equipment, check furniture is fire retardant, provide emergency contacts and ensure good housekeeping to minimise pests.
Airbnb recently pledged to introduce a requirement for hosts on its books to confirm they have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed in their homes, and Grech said it was vital that the website followed through on this promise.
“This is a first step toward encouraging safer home stays in the UK. We strongly urge all home-exchange websites to follow suit,” she added.
Airbnb has seen phenomenal success since it launched in San Francisco in 2008, and has processed over 10 million bookings around the world, with Europe now representing 50 per cent of its business.
The brand is now looking to set itself aside from the rest of the travel and hospitality sector with a new look that emphasises the social nature of home-sharing and the sense of ‘belonging’ that it can create.
Airbnb is even attempting to create a ‘shared brand identity’ by encouraging home-owners to create their own version of its new logo, the Bélo, which it describes as ‘the universal symbol of belonging’.
“Today, so much of the way we travel has been mass-produced and commoditized,” said Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky.
“Airbnb is just the opposite. We’re a community of individuals. We’re powered by people of all different backgrounds and beliefs, each with our own outlook and our own story to tell.”
Airbnb has also completely overhauled its website and mobile platforms in an attempt to improve user experience, with new features including bigger photos on listings, clearer listings information, more prominent amenities and house rules and a prominent spot for neighbourhood details.