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Swiss Airbnb rentals skyrocket

The number of people renting flats and rooms in Switzerland via Airbnb doubled between 2014 and 2015 to 300,000, the company has confirmed. The online sharing platform is providing stiff competition for the traditional Swiss hotel industry.

While hotels, camping sites and bed and breakfast accommodations in Switzerland have recorded lower European visitors in recent years, mainly due to the strong Swiss franc, the apartment sharing start-up is reporting growing interest.

Three years ago the hotel industry association Hotelleriesuisse considered Airbnb a niche sector, with 2,000 apartments and rooms for rental. The American start-ups’s Swiss platform now features 17,000 offers of accommodation, Airbnb told the Swiss News Agency SDA on Tuesday. Most are rooms or apartments, which are rented over the internet or using a mobile app.

The average age of people offering their apartment for rental is 40, and that of clients is 35, Airbnb noted. Two-thirds of customers are from Europe and stay on average 4.5 nights. This compares with an average of two nights for Swiss hotels, according to the Federal Statistical Office.

In April, the property market consultancy Wüest & Partner released slightly lower figures on Airbnb’s operation in Switzerland. This spring it said it had registered 15,500 apartments and rooms, which can welcome up to 55,000 people. This represents almost a quarter of all accommodation in Switzerland, it added.

Almost 40% of offers are in five Swiss cities: Zurich, Basel, Lausanne, Bern and Geneva. Geneva has 1,500 apartments and rooms for rental, compared to 120 hotels for the entire canton.

The hotel industry admits it is struggling to get to grips with this new competition.

“Hotel owners have a grudge against this new player,” Philippe Thuner, president of the Hotel Association for French-speaking Switzerland, told Le Temps newspaper in April. “Any competition is stimulating, on the condition that it’s fair and the rules of the game, notably the legal rules, are the same for everyone. This is far from being the case.”

Critics complain that Airbnb bypasses local administrations and taxes.

Not all cities are happy with the new competition from Airbnb. The German capital Berlin recently announced it was cracking down and restricting private property rentals via Airbnb and similar online platforms, threatening heavy fines in an attempt to keep housing affordable for local people.