By Rashleigh MacFarlane
Cornwall now has more Airbnb properties to let than London, according to the boss of the organisation. In some coastal areas a quarter of all properties are rented on Airbnb.
California-based Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky told the BBC that Cornwall is now his organisation’s top UK destination.
The news illustrates the complex challenges facing the new Conservative administration at Cornwall Council, which has vowed to find a way of making homes available to local people. The development of policies capable of taming global behemoths like Airbnb will require unprecedented political courage.
There are now thought to be more than 12,500 Airbnb properties in Cornwall, where owners rent out their homes for short periods to holidaymakers or other visitors. At the same time, there are about 20,000 people on Cornwall Council’s Homechoice register, waiting for somewhere to live.
"Rural nights booked in the UK used to be a quarter of our bookings, they're now half," Mr Chesky told the BBC. He confirmed that Cornwall is the UK’s most-booked summer location in 2021, a title previously held by London.
In 2016, there were little more than a dozen Airbnb properties in Cornwall. But now the organisation has become a global phenomenon.
Airbnb’s latest Travel & Living report says that after last year’s Covid-related slump, bookings went up from 50% in January 2020 to 80% in 2021.
Mr Chesky said other long -term changes include the use of Airbnb for remote working opportunities, rather than just holidays, as customers seek a change of scene, perhaps, rather than just a short, sharp break.
Airbnb’s intervention in Cornwall does more than just reduce the number of homes available to local people – it also irritates more mainstream tourism operators, frustrated at
what they see as unfair competition by a lower-taxed and unregulated competitor.
The growth of Airbnb and its impact on the uses of Cornwall’s housing stock will increase pressure on Cornwall Council to develop a coherent allocations’ policy for its new home-building company, Treveth – which now owns a new profit-making block of flats in Newquay, available for private rent. A growing number of local councillors believe that all Treveth properties, built or purchased by local taxpayers, should be available to local people who have sometimes spent years waiting on the Homechoice register.