Good Practice in Genoa: a step forward the experimentation of sharing economy

Last June 9th 2017 the City of Genoa freely undersigned an agreement on the Tourists Tax with Airbnb Ireland, the famous platform that connects people having extra space to rent (i.e. Hosts) with people (i.e. Guests) who need it for a short-term accommodation (i.e. Listing).

The agreement introduces a participatory model for the management of resources coming from the tax. This experience makes Genoa an unique example in Italy of effective collaboration and dialogue with a platform, promoted in absence of any statutory requirement.

This policy has been recognized as a “Good Practice” by the European program Urbact: namely, it has been the only one selected among 270 projects coming from 219 cities of 29 European Countries.

Genoa represents a pioneering model for the other European cities in terms of sustainable urban development in the tourist sector, one of the main source of income for the whole Region.

It is currently managing – as the Lead partner – the “Interactive Cities” network, which explores the impact of digital tools on governance, and the way digital, social media and user generated content can improve it.

In this perspective, the agreement itself may be considered the last step of a longer participatory path, started in 2016 with a partnership at regional level.

Indeed, Airbnb started working with the Region and communities last year; their collaboration were focused on the creation of appropriate policies aimed to promote responsible tourism and home sharing rules.

The partnership was one of the initiatives included in the Pact for the Strategic Development of Tourism (Patto per lo sviluppo strategico del turismo).

It aimed to:

  • Educate hosts on local home sharing rules;
  • Create an open and transparent community;
  • Promote the Region as a destination for tourism.

The agreement recently signed by the City of Genoa is aligned with the objectives pursued at regional level. It concerns a pragmatic method for the implementation, collection and remittance of the Tourists Tax, by the Platform on its behalf (pursuant to Article 1, “The Platform accepts that the municipal Tourists tax for overnight stays owed by the Guests for overnight stays in Listings that are booked on the Platform, will be collected by the Platform and reimmitted to the Municipality on behalf of the Hosts”).

It will in be in force experimentally for a year, since August 1st 2017, and it will allow to regulate a fundamental sector of the local economy.

In detail, it is made up of 13 articles. The content could be divided into three main headings:

  • Method for the management of the Tourists Tax;
  • Parties obligations;
  • Penalties and breach of contract.

The Platform will inform its registered Hosts about its new role. It will consequently include in its Terms of Service a provision about the collection and remittance of the Tax by the Platform on their behalf.

The Agreement provides powers of audit and check for the Municipality of Genoa, related to data disclosure too. In this case, the Municipality will have both a general access to anonymized data and also, on a case by case basis, a limited access to individual account details, in order to verify the effective collection of the Tax by the Platform.

Airbnb initiatives have also turned to other Italian cities (City of Florence, Rome prefecture), as well as it agreed to enforce rental limits in other two key European markets, such as London and Amsterdam.

These cases represents a different approach of the home-sharing company, despite of many other Silicon Valley ones: it may be due to avoid the risk of crashing down on the use of the service, because of policymakers restrictions.

Recently, the Platform has published a report about the economic impact of the community in Italy in 2016, which boosted about € 4.1 billion.

About Genoa experience:

  • There were 1100 active Host-users;
  • Each Host rented his own space for 39 nights per year, earning around €2700;
  • 57000 Guests booked an Airbnb accommodation, with an increase of demand by 70% over the previous year.

The development of home-sharing in Genoa produced better economic and environmental impacts compared to traditional accommodation.

Nevertheless, researchers at the Ladest Institute of the University of Siena (Ladest) have been monitoring for two years the community activity in thirteen Italian cities: Bari, Bologna, Catania, Florence, Genoa, Matera, Milan, Naples, Rome, Siena, Turin, Venice and Verona.

The study has calculated unbalances and significant incoming differences among Hosts operating in the same City: accommodations placed close the historic centre are most in demand.

The research group has proved that earnings are concentrated in the hands of a few people.

This study group could be useful to reflect upon the reactions generated by the implementation of the Tourist Tax: since it is not a graduated progressive tax, it could discourage Hosts with a few yearly incoming, who could reduce or give up their home-sharing assets.

Furthermore, there could be a risk of distorting the original purpose of the Platform, switching from sharing to a real business model.

The next experimentation could reduce and dispel doubts and it would be possible analyze reactions coming from Hosts, Guests and the Municipality.

Il 9 giugno 2017 Genova ha siglato un accordo con Airbnb Ireland sulla Tourist Tax, introducendo un modello partecipativo per la gestione delle risorse provenienti dalla tassa. La policy è stata riconosciuta come “Good Practice” dal programma europeo Urbact.