The decision to stop short-term lets in picturesque yet “at-risk” tourist destinations like the East Neuk during the coronavirus pandemic has been welcomed by MPs.
Companies like Airbnb have promised to stop listing available properties for use as the crisis continues to unfold.
The East Neuk will still be here when this is over, when we would gladly welcome tourists.”
North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain.
A number of residents in the East Neuk had complained tourists and second-home owners were ignoring government advice by choosing to self-isolate at the popular holiday resort, fearing their presence could “overwhelm” local health services.
Earlier this week Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood stepped down from her role after it was revealed she continued to use her holiday home in Earlsferry, directly contravening her own instructions.
Paused for fortnight
Airbnb will not allow bookings across the UK from today until April 18, after which it will review its measures.
In materials read by The Courier, Airbnb will also offer full refunds for any bookings made between March 14 and May 31 of this year.
A ban has also been put in place on listings that might be seen to be taking “advantage” of the outbreak, prompting the company to prohibit listing titles containing the words “Covid-19”, “coronavirus” and “quarantine”.
Further to this, the company said, it will check with hosts now to make sure any guest in place in an Airbnb property is there for the reasons they claim, as part of efforts to prevent tourists flocking to rural areas.
‘East Neuk will still be here when this over’
The move was welcomed by North East Fife Lib Dem MP Wendy Chamberlain, who had contacted the company directly, she said, after receiving numerous complaints from constituents.
Ms Chamberlain said: “North East Fife and the East Neuk in particular are tourist hot-spots and we are trying to send a message it is inappropriate for any person to travel there to a second home or for a holiday.
“Other people’s self-isolation and social distancing spots are our homes and our communities. Not only do people travelling to new areas at the moment run the risk of bringing the virus from an affected area to a previously unaffected area, they particularly run the risk of falling ill and putting pressure on our local health services.
“It as absolutely imperative that everyone stays at home and only leaves for the essentials or in an emergency.
“The East Neuk will still be here when this is over, when we would gladly welcome tourists.”
Company to continue NHS support
Airbnb director of public policy Patrick Robinson said Airbnb would continue to allow health professionals using properties to self-isolate to stay.
He said: “Hosts across the UK are playing a vital role in housing NHS and other medical staff as they continue their critical work.
“We’ve also heard from hosts who want to help others follow the rules and keep people safe during these unprecedented times.
“Restricting bookings on Airbnb to key workers and other essential stays will allow hosts to continue supporting frontline workers while following government guidance.”
Nationwide ban welcomed
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “I am delighted to have secured a ban on holiday rentals from Airbnb, which is welcome news for people in the Highlands and all across Scotland
“People should be following the clear public health advice to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.
“An outright ban on holiday bookings should have been the case from the very outset of the lockdown and I sincerely hope that Airbnb has learned lessons from their awful handling of this.
“In light of their decision, it’s now imperative that bookings taken before the ban are cancelled as a matter of urgency to protect our rural communities from the risk of the spread of coronavirus.”