Airbnb owners flout coronavirus-busting booking rules

One owner said it was no problem for 38 people to stay at the property despite a government clampdown on gatherings.

Dozens of Airbnb owners are looking the other way when it comes to the number of people staying in their properties, causing consternation among those in the self-catering industry struggling to come to terms with new lockdown restrictions.

While gatherings have been restricted to six people from two households meeting indoors as of Monday to help stop the spread of Covid-19, STV News contacted 62 of the largest properties listed on the booking site and found three quarters of them agreed to bookings that would violate the government restrictions.

One owner said it was no problem for 38 people to stay at the property. All properties were accepting bookings for the last weekend in September when contacted.

“It’s irresponsible and disappointing that independent operators are choosing to behave in this way,” said Marc Crothall from the Scottish Tourism Alliance.

Earlier this week, two men were charged after 300 people attended a party thrown at a rented mansion in Midlothian. The owners of the property said they would also like to pursue charges – despite approving the rental in the first place – and Airbnb maintains it’s the owner and renter’s responsibility to adhere to government guidelines.

Nicola Baird, who manages several self-catering properties in Aberdeenshire, is worried that lax enforcement by property owners could lead to a larger problem for owners who enforec the government guidelines.

“It gives the rest of us a bad name, or works against us with the government feeling that they have to step in to take tougher lines,” she said. “We certainly don’t want to destroy a very hard working effort to build up a good reputation, at the end of the day it’s about our guests and clients, it’s not about a quick buck.”

Airbnb said it was contacting owners in Scotland to remind them about government guidelines, saying the “vast majority of people travel responsibly” but stopping short of imposing restrictions on the size of properties available on its site.

“The Scottish Government’s rules on gatherings of more than six people apply to two mixing households and our focus is on ensuring our community is aware of these rules and how they apply to them.”

Brandon Cook and Roxy McCrae, STV News

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