About a year and a half ago I wrote this article about the reality of Airbnb in Medellin. This past weekend was 2017’s second major operative to verify/shut down illegal short-term rentals all over the city and similar operatives have been taking place in other major cities across Colombia throughout the year. Literally hundreds of hosts/travelers were given the order to vacate their illegal rentals last weekend and either cease operation or start to comply with the new laws/codes.
Medellin, just like many other cities around the world is trying to figure out how to regulate para-hotel type activties that are promoted by online platforms like Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, Homeaway, VRBO, etc. The Colombian hotel industry association (Cotelco) for years has been pushing goverment entities for more oversight and regulation of short-term rentals that would affect/protect their hotel members and now they are getting it.
And it’s the law. Over the last 5 years the laws that govern the hotel industry, short-term rentals, and handling of foreigners has been evolving. Rentals of less than 30 days have specific laws that apply, and are illegal across Colombia (national law) unless both the building and the unit itself meet a checklist of requirements from business licenses to fire extinguishers.
The hotel industry in Colombia has a lot to lose. Cotelco has estimated in the past that up to 30% of all short-term stays in Colombia are being handled via “illegal”, non-hotel channels. Plus the average Colombian hotel is poorly designed, poorly operated and suffers from below average (vs. global hotel industry) occupancy. And then comes Airbnb representing a new generation of traveler that doesn’t want to consume a hotel experience that was built for a bygone era, and all that new Colombian tourism growth goes away from traditional hotels.
As the largest Airbnb host in Colombia, we at Casacol naturally follow the industry developments very closely. Every new law, every modification to existing laws, plus national, regional and local codes we follow to a T. Those who want to operate Airbnb in a legal fashion from now on are being held to the same codes that the hotel industry are subject to. For those who try to operate illegally, it’s just a matter of time until your guests are asked to leave, the owner/manager is fined and the door to the unit is sealed.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to deal with government entities when you are disrupting (silicon valley style) deep rooted local industries. Companies like Airbnb give us the keys to the future, but local laws and codes need to be implemented with precision if you are to make a business/living out of it.
Brad Hinkelman – firstname.lastname@example.org
Founder/Owner – Casacol SAS