Ilegal online vacation rentals may soon be a thing of the past in the Mexican Caribbean as authorities begin clamping down on the booming vacation rental market. The popularity of online platforms like Airbnb has skyrocketed in places like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, offering visitors cheap accommodation and greater flexibility. With concern over safety and taxation issues, officials have announced new strict measures to regulate the online market, which are expected to put an end to the practice.
Under a new regulatory framework announced by state officials, all hotels, online rental platforms, and tour companies will have to register in the National Tourism Registry by the end of the year. The move is expected to address long-lasting issues affecting online rentals, such as fraud, tax evasion, and lack of basic safety features.
The new registry will keep track of official hospitality providers, and ensure that all stakeholders comply with regulatory measures and safety standards. Signing up for the new registry has several steps, with hotels being the first to receive certification. So far, more than 400 properties have registered under the new scheme, with other stakeholders expected to follow soon.
Authorities have considered a host of new measures for some time already, but have yet to announce any severe legal consequences for illegal online vacation rentals. Now, officials are stepping up regulations and clamping down on the fast-growing market. Starting January next year, online rental platforms such as Airbnb can be fined for failing to comply with the new obligatory register.
The fines, which range from 5,000 pesos to 50,000 pesos per day, are aimed at sending a strong signal that authorities are finally taking the issue seriously. According to Bernardo Cueto Riestra, Quintan Roo’s tourism secretary, the goal is to end the long-lasting practice of unregulated online vacation rentals, especially on platforms like Airbnb or even social media websites like Facebook.
There are still 1200 hotels that have yet to sign up for the new tourism registry, as well as over 40,000 online vacation rentals. Officials say most hotels and other hospitality stakeholders have shown great willingness to sign up for the new scheme, but many are showing opposition as well. For now, online rental platforms still have until the end of December to comply with the new rules.
Airbnb and similar vacation rental companies have come under fire this year for renting unsafe or unsanitary accommodations to tourists. Up to 80% of all AirBnbs in Chetumal and Bacalar were found to be unsafe, lacking essential safety permits and potentially putting travelers at risk. Another issue relates to online scams and frauds, in which travelers are asked to make large upfront deposits for properties that don’t exist.
Although offering extremely cheap rates and flexibility compared to luxury resorts, online rentals are a risky business. In addition to a number of safety-related concerns, many renters engage in tax evasion and other illegal fiscal practices, something that hotels and resorts staunchly oppose.
Authorities are hopeful that the new regulatory framework will help bolster the hospitality industry’s credibility in the Mexican Caribbean. Although most tourists choose to stay at hotels, there are tens of thousands of online rentals, many of which may leave a bad taste in travelers’ mouths.
In a similar vein to cities across the world, Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean are now looking to take a strict approach to improve the quality and safety of online vacation rentals. With over 26 million travelers expected to visit the region this year alone, authorities want to ensure that visitors go back home with a good impression.
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