We need more regulation as domestic tourism flourishes in Yorkshire - Boostly's Mark Simpson

With the growing popularity of short-term booking sites, never has it been easier to list your property as a holiday rental or to find one.

Airbnb reported a 33 per cent increase in listings between 2017 and 2018 and with the pandemic and boom in UK tourism it is likely this is even higher in 2022.

There has also been a rise in second-home ownership. In 2018-19, 772,000 households were listed as second homes, 10 per cent of them in Yorkshire.

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Here we have several towns and cities that have always attracted tourists and, with the ease of apps and websites, have now seen a huge growth in short-term accommodation.

Armed Forces Day in Scarborough drew large crowds last month. Picture: Simon Hulme.

In 2020, Bridlington became the second most trending UK seaside destination on Airbnb, based on year-on-year booking growth, with towns like Whitby also seeing a huge surge in popularity.

Analysis from the Economic Policy Institute has shown that the ease of short-term rentals is encouraging landlords to move their properties out of the long-term rental and for sale markets and into the short-term rental market.

While this can be a lucrative source of revenue, with this comes reports of “over-tourism”, crowding, anti-social behaviour and an increase in property prices and lack of long-term accommodation for locals.

As a result, last month the Government announced it is launching a review into the effect of short-term holiday lets which could result in physical checks of premises or a kitemark scheme.

In Scotland, this is already under way, with legislation requiring all local authorities to establish a licensing scheme by October.

Wales has also publicly stated its plan to establish a similar scheme and in Northern Ireland this is already happening, with all tourist accommodation requiring a valid certificate issued by the national tourist board.

As someone who grew up in the tourism industry and has helped thousands of accommodation providers across the world, I absolutely welcome this legislation.

At the moment anyone can decide to list their property as short-stay accommodation with no legislation and with this comes risks. Homeowners and tourists B&Bs have to undergo stringent criteria just to open – a lot of this is related to health and safety. Things like ensuring there is adequate fire safety in place.

While there are many great hosts on these third-party booking websites, I believe the proper legislation will ensure it is only these good hosts who can rent out their accommodation.

This will ensure the general public has a better and safer experience, make it a fairer playing field for other types of accommodation businesses like hotels and reduce the overall number of accommodations slightly, which will relieve some of the pressure on local communities.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill published in May will, when put into law, give councils the power to double the council tax on empty or partially occupied properties, which should also help address the issue of increased property prices for locals.

I’m a firm believer that tourism, when managed appropriately, can be very good for communities, bringing in income and helping to protect and preserve historical sites and the local environment.

My parents ran a B&B from their farm in Scarborough and tourism was vital, not only to make a living but to maintain the farm.

It’s time to level things up and ensure that all accommodation is adequate and safe for visitors. We can all become more responsible travellers and make an effort to book directly where we can – which will result in a better rate for you and a better visitor experience.

Booking direct not only ensures a fairer deal for accommodation providers and tourists by eliminating booking fees, it also means visitors have more money to spend.

Like it or not, our small towns, resorts and rural areas are becoming more and more reliant on tourism.

We can see that in the number of farmers and landowners who have diversified their properties, especially here in Yorkshire.

You only have to take a short drive to notice the rise in attractions, farm shops and visitor centres.

The rise in domestic tourism throughout lockdowns tipped the scale, highlighting that if we’re going to make this economy work we need regulations in place.

I, for one, hope they will be done fairly and correctly for everyone.

- Scarborough-born Mr Simpson helps accommodation owners get direct bookings with his company Boostly.