New York passed a new law on home-sharing to regulate Airbnb business

Last week New York imposed a regulation on Airbnb to disclose hosts’ information and transaction data to the authority. Under the new law Airbnb will have to report hosts’ information such as names and addresses through electronic reports. The regulation aims to combat against illegal short-term rentals and will go into effect in 180 days. Non-compliance will result in heavy fines.

Launched in 2008, Airbnb is a home-rental company rising from the new sharing economy. Like most businesses in the new economy to traditional industries, Airbnb has brought disruptions to the hotel industry. The new New York law aims to clamp down on unlicensed guesthouses and the rising housing stock resulted from short-term rentals. However the law may also infringe on hosts’ privacy.

The New York law was not the first authoritative attempt to regulate Airbnb businesses. Early this year Japan passed a stringent home-sharing regulation to ask hosts to register their listing and limit home-sharing in Japan to 180 days a year. Local governments in Japan are enforcing even stricter regulations in their areas. For example in Yokohama, Tokyo’s Shinjuku, Nerima, Bunkyo, etc home-sharing is banned on weekdays. The stringent law led to Airbnb dropping almost 80% of its Japanese listings.

As the new sharing economy emerged and thrived, new business models such as the Airbnb home-sharing developed ahead of regulations. While the new model injects dynamic energy into the business through introducing unique traveller experience, there are problems beyond regulation such as hosts avoiding lodging taxes, safety issues, blows to housing markets, etc. The new law will be able to tackle illegal rentals by keeping an eye on hosts to combat hosts that rent apartments that forbid short-term rentals, commercial operators that run unlicensed listings, etc. By curbing illegal rentals, more housing can be released back to the market. The regulation also secured the service with a regulated list of hosts. Despite all the advantages expected to come with the law, the law will almost ruin the original idea of sharing spare home space to people with a charge and strangle the model of creating values out of available resources.

The tension between the hotel industry and the new sharing economy has been an issue that needs to be resolved. More similar regulatory attempts are expected to come in future. The public should pay attention to the development.


紐約新法案打擊Airbnb共享業務

上星期紐約簽署法案規定Airbnb向當局提交屋主資料和交易訊息,包括屋主姓名和地址等,以電子報告的形式每月向紐約當局提交,用以打擊非法出租。新法於簽署後180天起生效,違例將予以嚴重罰款。

Airbnb於2008年成立,是共享經濟下迅速發展的房屋共享公司。許多共享經濟的公司或業務對傳統行業帶來顛覆性影響,而Airbnb也不例外,對酒店業造成衝擊。紐約市的新法旨於打擊非法租賃和短期出租帶來的房租上漲、空房率下隆的問題。然而新法將侵犯屋主私隱。

紐約並非首個對Airbnb業務進行規管的地區,今年初日本亦頒布針對民宿出租的嚴厲新法,民宿經營者需進行登記,出租期一年內亦不得多於180日,地區政府更進一步收緊做法,例如在橫濱、東京新宿、練馬、文京區等,民宿經營者不得在星期一至五出租房屋。新法下,Airbnb的日本民宿近八成下架。

共享經濟發展蓬勃,嶄新的商業經濟模式發展日新月異,不受法例規範和監管。雖然Airbnb的經營模式為旅客帶來獨特的住宿體驗,為行業注入活力和新意,但不受法例監管卻造成各項問題,例如屋主逃稅、住客安全問題、地區房租上漲等等。新法可望有效打擊非法的短期房屋租賃,並杜絕商戶經營未登記的物業等等。打擊非法租賃可把更多物業放回市場,同時屋主受監管安障了住客。然而,新法將扼殺透過共享閒置資源創造更大價值的概念。

酒店業和共享經濟間的衝突有待解決。未來對共享經濟模式將有更多的規管行為,大眾亦應留意發展。

 

A Casual Sound Walk at Kawazu Seven Waterfalls in Izu

During my stay in Izu, I made time for the stunning Kawazu Seven Waterfalls (河津七滝). Located in the mountains above the onsen town Kawazu, the site was of natural scenic beauty. But this time it was more than a feast for the eyes; it was also one for the ears. I was taking a soundwalk along the 1 km long trail past the waterfalls.

A soundwalk is a walk one takes focusing on the sounds of the surroundings. As different from what we usually do, in a soundwalk we pay more attention to what we hear, experiencing the environment through sounds rather than sight. And how a scene sounds like is known as a soundscape. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) also released standards on the measurement and management of soundscape. So this time, I was feeling the soundscape of the Kawazu Seven Waterfalls with what I heard. It was a nice and relaxing walk. When I closed my eyes and listened: it was a symphony of water splashing, gurgling, rushing, gliding through and hurtling against rocks.

Along the trail, we also came across statues from the story of The Izu Dancer by Kawabata Yasunari, Japanese sculptures, a suspension bridge… All made pleasant additions to the walk. If you visit Izu, the Kawazu Seven Waterfalls is a must-go!


日本伊豆之行(下)︰在河津七滝聲音漫步

這次伊豆之行我特意抽時間遊歷美麗的河津七滝,慕名而至,滿載而歸。七滝即七瀑布,位於温泉之鄉河津附近的山上。瀑布與瀑布之間是一條約一公里長的小徑,沿途風景迷人,讓人心曠神怡,但這次不止是一場視覺盛宴,更是聽覺享受,因為此行我不單是郊遊看風景,而是聲音漫步(soundwalk)。

平日我們習慣以視覺來感受外界,甚少依賴聽覺來感受,但視象與聲音都是組成我們記憶和感覺的部分,很難分割開來,聲音漫步讓我們專注聆聽周圍,以聲音感受環境。透過聲音來感受和描述的環境被稱為聲景(Soundscape),國際標準化組織(International Organization for Standardization)近年亦為量度和管理聲景訂立國際標準,可見聲景研究和設計漸趨重要。這次七滝中連接瀑布與瀑布間的小徑是很好的聲音步行路線,沿途有不同特色的聲景。把七滝風光盡收眼底,閉起眼,又是另一番感受︰一場水流的交響樂遠遠近近響起,是水或濺起,或潺潺流動,或穿過或激打石頭的聲音……

沿途還遇見「伊豆的舞娘」裏主角的雕像、日式傳統雕塑、吊橋等等,為途人增添不少驚喜,留下美好回憶。假如你到河津,七滝之景絕對不可錯過!

Greetings from Izu

I am not a fan of driving, particularly overseas.  However, if planning to visit the countryside with multiple stops, I find it more convenient to drive when travelling in Japan, in particular to the countryside when you have multiple stops. Driving in Japan is a pleasure. The toll roads are very nice with service areas and wider roads. The highways in Japan (國道) are equally good and there’s no need to pay tolls. What’s so good about the highways is that they have roadside stations (道の駅), where you can shop for local specialties. The bonus we got this time was the sunshine.

We were on our way to Izu – the onsen village. As there were so many things to see in Izu, I decided to stay in the middle of Izu, where I could decide which part or direction to go. The hotel I stayed in was Izu Marriott Hotel Shuzenji, located up in the hill. We could see Mount Fuji from the room and had in-room onsen. It was pretty chilly though…

I highly recommend this hotel if you look for a quiet night because there are not many restaurants in the neighbourhood. Just a reminder that the room service finishes at 10pm!


日本伊豆之行(上)︰看到富士山美景的室內温泉酒店

如果你在日本近郊旅行,又有好幾個目的地,駕車是比較方便的選擇,加上在日本駕駛是相當愉快的經歷,例如收費高速公路路面寛敞,沿途設有服務區,有餐廳、洗手間、販賣部等等,十分方便。一般國道(國道)同樣方便,除了不用繳費外,亦設有道之驛(道の駅),是與高速公路服務區類似的休憩區,其中商店還賣當地特產。最高興的是,這趟旅程陽光普照,風景怡人。

我們這次是到温泉勝地伊豆。因為伊豆有太多值得看的地方,我決定落腳在伊豆中部,方便我前往不同地方。這次我住在位於山上的伊豆修善寺萬豪酒店 (Izu Marriott Hotel Shuzenji),從温泉房間更可望見富士山,雖然有點冷……

如果你想安靜度過一晚,伊豆修善寺萬豪酒店會是不錯的選擇,因為附近沒有太多酒店。另外温馨提示︰酒店的客房服務在每晚十點結束!

Hands-free Massage while Sleeping in Downtown Tokyo

Hotels located near Tokyo Station generally charge a higher price.  If I have to stay near this area to catch an early train in the morning or have meetings in the proximity, I prefer to stay in Hotel Ryumeikan Tokyo, for its location just opposite to Tokyo Station and its value for money services.

What’s more, this hotel offers the option to select rooms and beds with massage functions (“the forus experience”).  I like this option so much particularly after a long day of work or walk, I could enjoy massage before entering deep sleep.  Another merit is their restaurant on the top floor, where I had the best steamed onions ever.

There’re apparently a lot of shops nearby as well.  Look forward to my next visit!


位於東京市中心又有自動按摩牀的酒店

東京站附近的酒店價格不菲,難得車站對面的東京龍名館酒店不但地理位置優勝,服務不錯,而且價錢合理,如果翌日我要搭早車或在附近開會,我都會入住龍名館酒店。

讓人喜出望外的是酒店提供按摩牀(Forus Experience)供選擇,經過一天的操勞,能按摩一下好好放鬆幫助入睡。酒店的餐廳很值得推薦,就在頂層,那裏的蒸洋葱是我吃過最好吃的蒸洋葱!

酒店周圍還有許多商店可逛,期待下次到訪!