Taiwan is gunning for 'unlicensed rentals' with AirBnB in its crosshairs

The purge many feared may have just arrived with a campaign kicked off by the Tourism Bureau and some of Taiwan's largest travel companies to crack down on 'unlicensed rental properties'

Image from Taiwan Tourism Bureau (modified)

Image from Taiwan Tourism Bureau (modified) (Agencies photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Taiwan government, in cooperation with some of the largest Taiwanese travel companies, are poised to start cracking down on businesses that provide “unlicensed” accommodation across the country.

On June 12, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau kicked off a campaign to end what it termed “unlicensed rental properties” in favor of “legal” accommodation; a campaign that will ostensibly improve Taiwan’s “travel safety and image.”

The event was held in the main hall of the Taipei Train Station, in cooperation with some of the largest tour operators in Taiwan including; Lion Travel, Ez Travel, Ezfly International Travel, Cola Tours, and Star Travel.

The event attracted over 500 tour operators, who were reportedly wearing T-shirts that read “Backlash against illegal rentals,” according to TTR weekly. The campaign organizers are imploring travelers to "Say No!" to "unlicensed" and "illegal" accommodation service providers, according to the official press release.

At the campaign kick-off event, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau announced that the government intends to it begin a series of rigorous inspections of property owners, to identify, isolate, and ultimately shutdown businesses offering “unlicensed” accommodation to residents and tourists alike.

The claim is that the campaign will ultimately improve tourism confidence, as the government is seeking to crackdown on properties that are unsafe, or those who have made a business out of scamming short term travelers.

The Tourism Bureau has also reportedly threatened to publish names of accommodation booking sites that do not remove the listings for businesses that offer accommodation illegally.

The Bureau is providing information on the campaign and tips for travelers at their website taiwanstay.net.tw.

TTP Weekly quoted a representative from EZTravel as saying:

“The responsibility of travel agencies should be actively developing and cooperating with legal hotels, thereby creating a win-win situation for the tourism industry. The consumer disputes arising from the sales of cheap and unlicensed rentals creates a negative impact on the image of the travel agencies.”

Judging from the language used by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and the tour companies involved, it seems most likely that the campaign is going to target a large percentage of the AirBnB market in Taiwan, which has developed into a serious competitor with large established hotel chains in the country.

Last week in Japan, 80 percent of AirBnB listings were axed after new laws governing home-sharing were introduced.

After years of rumors that such a crackdown was likely to arrive in Taiwan, it appears the time has come.

Many are apt to criticize the campaign of the Taiwan government as counter-productive, since the availability of quality affordable accommodation provided by a network like AirBnB is likely to offer a wider range of options for travelers across Taiwan’s localities, and countryside.

Small local owned businesses that attract tourists away from the larger metropolitan areas can provide a means to stimulate rural economies. If a fair standard is introduced for such properties, smaller accommodation providers can certainly contribute to improving Taiwan’s overall tourism profile.

Now as the government and Taiwan Tourism Bureau promote their campaign against “unlicensed rentals,” they should strive for an honest campaign of inspections to ensure reasonable quality standards for licensing accommodation providers.

Hopefully this can be done without devastating the thriving network and growing economy of small-scale accommodation providers in the country, which are actively contributing to Taiwan's Tourism industry.