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Airbnb urges State not to drag all short-term holiday lets into planning system

Holiday lets unsuitable for long-term rental should fall outside any new controls, platform says

Airbnb says the number of North American visitors to Connemara jumped 18 per cent last year. Photograph Simon Carswell

Airbnb is urging the Government not to impose new planning restrictions on short-term holiday properties that will never be available for the long-term rental market.

It comes as the platform reports that more tourists are visiting Ireland from the United States than from Britain, traditionally our strongest tourist market. The data relates to users of Airbnb’s service.

The Government is planning tighter planning controls on properties available on platforms including Airbnb as part of a campaign to bring more homes back into the long-term rental market. However, it has yet to give any indication to the measures it is proposing in the Short-Term Tourist Letting Bill alongside a well-flagged requirement on landlords to register short-term accommodation with Fáilte Ireland.

The Government estimates that 12,000 of the 30,000 short-term tourist lettings currently on the market are suitable for long-term residential accommodation. That suggests the majority of short-term tourist lets are not impacting the rental crisis.


However, Airbnb says it is worried that new planning controls “could have a detrimental effect on tourism in rural communities”.

The platform says visitors to Ireland are increasingly likely to bring business outside the State’s major urban areas with the company reporting the “most dispersed year of travel” to date last year.

“Almost 5,000 Irish towns, villages, parishes and cities have already received bookings through Airbnb for the summer of 2024,” the company said in a statement, adding that last year saw an 8 per cent rise in the amount of bookings outside city centres.

It said the number of North American visitors to Connemara jumped 18 per cent last year, with the area ranking among the top 10 Irish destinations for North American visitors alongside places such as Kilkenny and Killarney.

While Airbnb agrees with plans for a national registration scheme, something it says it has long campaigned for, it has lobbied Government for clear planning guidelines “that do not create unnecessary barriers for those with limited resources”.

Specifically, it is arguing that any tightening of planning rules should not force homeowners who currently let out properties such as granny flats or converted barns on their properties to secure planning permission for short-term letting.

“Additionally, we called out the need for rules to consider those who also use their personal holiday homes as a short-term let and have no intention of putting it on the long-term rental market,” it said.

Since 2019, property owners must apply to their local council for planning permission to let out their entire family home for short-term lets totalling more than 90 days in a year while they are away, or to let out a second property for short-term lets if they are located in any of the 60 rent pressure zones across the State.

The Government has flagged that the Short-Term Tourist Letting Bill will include new planning controls for properties let out for shorter periods. Those properties are already required to register their status with local authorities.

“We have long supported the introduction of modern rules to bring transparency to short-term letting activity in Ireland and to help local authorities enforce rules while protecting everyday homesharers,” said Derek Nolan, head of public policy for Ireland at Airbnb. “Now the Government must also introduce effective simple planning guidelines that will give hosts peace of mind and protect the tourism economy that many rural communities depend on.”

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times