“I’m a stranger in my own city”: Prague takes on Airbnb to dam flood of tourists
The Guardian, 1/2/20
Joining a battle already being waged by many other cities, the Czech capital’s mayor wants new laws to limit the lettings website.
The size of crowds that gather in Prague’s centre disrupts the lives of residents, the city council says. Photograph: John Elk III/Alamy
For decades, its mesmerising blend of baroque and gothic beauty was closed to mass tourism by the iron curtain that divided the communist east from the capitalist west during the cold war.
Now Prague, which has gained an unenviable reputation as a destination for stag nights and pub crawls, has become the latest European city to propose a radical assault on Airbnb and other short-term letting platforms as over-tourism threatens to overwhelm it and drive out residents.
Under plans pushed by the city’s liberal mayor, Zdeněk Hřib, property owners would be barred from leasing out entire flats except when it was their own home and they were temporarily vacating it. Tourists demanding Airbnb rentals would be limited instead to single rooms in accommodation where the owner also lived.
Speaking to the Observer in his office in Prague’s new city hall – near the heart of the tourist district – Hřib, a member of the Pirate party, said the idea was the focal point of a scheme to “give Prague back to the people of Prague” and mitigate the negative effects of tourism.