Late in the tourist season and before the Carnival weekend, the Ministry of Tourism (Mintur) presented a bill to routinely accommodate tourist accommodation in private homes. The initiative, which entered Parliament on Friday, does not propose to intervene in the link between tenant and owner through applications, such as Airbnb, but to establish a registry of properties that, due to being rented in a “regular” and “professional” manner, cause a ” unfair competition” in the hotel sector.
Under the concept of “collaborative economy”, maintains the project, “activities are beginning to be developed that are true business activities, carried out regularly and professionalism, undermining the meaning of the collaborative economy”. Those kid cases that the Mintur intends to routinely, and not “one-time accommodation as a sporadic cultural exchange or of the personality that rents their house in season to be able to deduct expenses from their taxes”.
In conversation with la diaria, Remo Monzeglio, undersecretary of Tourism, pointed out that the project is “an old dream” of hotel operators, who with “the advent of digital platforms began to have competition that they considered unfair.” He pointed out that “in many cases” “places where a single owner has 15 apartments” are reserved by applications, that is, “as if he had a hotel but not appearing as such and not paying taxes as such”.
Monzeglio clarified that the initiative “does not go against the man who has his little house on the beach or the family who has an apartment and rents it for 15 days in January to pay the property tax or expenses for the year”, but against “the personalities that do a lucrative business with a certain number of properties that are customarily offered through the platforms and that constitute unfair competition for the duly regulated hotel industry,” he stressed.
Subject to modifications during the parliamentary treatment -he has not yet been appointed to any commission-, the project has the support of the business sector. In dialogue with la diaria, Marina Cantera, president of the Uruguayan Chamber of Tourism, stated that due to “the proliferation of platforms “Currently “there are many people who offer tourists accommodation that is not official and that does not comply with the regulations that are required of any hotel.” It is a “problem” that “the entire world has suffered,” he said.
Meanwhile, Óscar Andino, secretary of the Unique Gastronomic and hotel Union of Uruguay in Maldonado, said to la diaria who, although they are unaware of the content of the proposal, evaluate the concept of routine housing accommodation for tourist purposes as positive to “give more guarantees to workers” and at the same time mitigate “the unfair competition that exists with hotel businessmen”. The content of the project
“The differentiating element at the time of routine is habituality”, marks the project, which proposes the reduction of the maximum term of the lease by season of nine to three months.
Likewise, it is proposed that the owner of the dwelling for tourist purposes “should request the change of use to the corresponding departmental government, in accordance with the regulations of current territorial ordering”. It is intended to “join efforts” between the Executive Power and the departmental governments in “the search for a fair balance with official accommodation, in such a way that it contributes to achieving the quality of services in accordance with tourist demand”.
The request for the change from residential use to tourist use would imply registration in a registry. In fact, it is expected that each owner-owner “or third-party administrator” of a home for tourist use submits an affidavit in the Registry of Tourism Service Providers of the Mintur, an organization that in turn will create a specific sector of “homes for tourist use and non-hotel companies”. The registration number granted by the registry must be displayed in all offers that are made “through any channel of tourist offer, both physical and electronic”.
In case of non-compliance with the law, the sanctions provided for in the Law for the Regulation of Tourist Activity, promulgated in 2014, may be applied.
The project is not seen by the Mintur as the definitive solution. According to Monzeglio, the dynamics of technological changes in terms of supply “is so fast and agile” that “it is practically impossible to have a legislature that is on par.” “We cannot know if within three months another element appears that also, in some way, distorts marketing,” he said. The hierarch indicated that regulations from other countries were studied, such as Spain, which has “an incredible number of houses and apartments for rent” and it was where “the main problems began to emerge”.
In this sense, Cantera mentioned that the Mintur project “takes into account the legislation that is already approved in cities such as New York or Barcelona.” He pointed out that although for now Uruguay has a “minor” tourist development, which allows “the possibility of planning the growth of tourism”, there are already “entire building complexes” that “are sold practically as if it were a hotel”, with breakfast, cleaning and other services, but that “however not boy hotels”.
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