Airbnb says Amsterdam old town home sharing ban is 'damaging'

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THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Airbnb on Friday accused the city of Amsterdam of acting illegally after it banned vacation rentals in its central old town, but said it wanted to work with authorities to ensure the survival of its home sharing business in the Dutch capital.

The municipality announced on Thursday that it would ban all vacation rentals in three areas that make up Amsterdam’s central canal ring, a UNESCO world heritage site.

In the other neighbourhoods of the Dutch capital, vacation rentals will be allowed only with a special permit, and only for up to 30 days a year, to groups of no more than four people.

Airbnb Netherlands said on Friday that it was “deeply concerned the proposals are illegal and violate the basic rights of local residents”.

“We remain eager to work with Amsterdam to support long-term solutions on home sharing - rather than short-term fixes that are confusing and damaging for residents and small businesses”, the company said.

Critics have long complained that the rise of Airbnb-style tourist rentals has torn the soul out of the centre of Europe’s best-loved tourist cities, from Edinburgh to Barcelona.

Airbnb said 95% of its listings in Amsterdam were outside the banned zone.

Amsterdam’s left-wing city council has been vocal about curbing mass tourism and what it describes as the nuisance caused by tourists in the old city centre.

The city says one in 15 dwellings in Amsterdam as a whole shows up on online rental platforms and the rise of such rentals has “an increasing negative influence on the quality of life” in some Amsterdam neighbourhoods.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Emelia Sithole-Matarise