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Nearly half Brussels’ Airbnb accommodation run as a business

Research undertaken by scientists at the Flemish Free University of Brussels VUB has revealed that nearly half of all the accommodation on offer on the Airbnb website is operated as a business by professionals and investors.  Airbnb was initially set up to allow tourists and members of the public with a spare room to get in touch.  Today it appears professionals have a major stake in the operation in the Belgian and Flemish capital.

The success of the accommodation platform has seen many professional providers of short-term rented accommodation jump on the Airbnb bandwagon.  The large VUB study discovered 45% of accommodation on offer in Brussels was run on a professional basis as a business operation.

The research homed in on 2019, a year unaffected by the corona disruption.  In all 11,427 premises were being made available via Airbnb at this time.

Airbnb offerings are mainly concentrated in the tourist zone around the market square and the Munt Theatre, the European institutions too but also the area around the Atomium.

Prof Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe: “We looked at the number of dwellings each host was providing, the duration of the let and the location of dwellings and came to the conclusion that only half of all Airbnb hosts in Brussels met the company’s original sharing economy philosophy”.

“In Brussels some big players offer over ten lets.  We are no longer talking about private individuals, who are renting out accommodation occasionally”.

Airbnb’s monopoly position and the impact it’s having on the local rented accommodation sector have been a topic of concern in several cities.

“Rented accommodation offerings that we are used to are dwindling because in certain areas many dwellings are being offered to tourists and expats.  Prices will rocket” says Prof Verhaeghe.

In the City of Brussels strict regulation is an attempt to curb malpractices. 

“Checks on addresses and enforcement of the rules are needed” says Verhaeghe.

He acknowledges the City authorities have set up a special Airbnb unit but insists they are facing large multinationals based ‘far away’, who won’t hesitate to take action in the courts.

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