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Airbnb sees strong growth in mountain regions, report finds

The municipality of Bagnes, which includes the Verbier resort, is the 'Airbnb capital' of the Swiss Alps. Keystone

Online rental platform Airbnb continues to expand in Switzerland, but the epicentre of its growth is not urban; it’s the mountain areas that are booming, according to a new study.

In recent years Airbnb has expanded exponentially in Switzerland – with more than 80,000 beds advertised as of June 2017. This represents a 66% rise from the same time in 2016, and twice as many as in June 2015.

And if much focus is placed on the urban impact of Airbnb in housing-squeezed Swiss cities, the areas with most rentals are firmly in the Alps: the cantons of Valais, Graubünden, and Bern between them account for over half of all rental offers in the country – notes a report by Valais tourist group Tourobs.

As popular tourism and ski destinations, this may come as no surprise. But the scale and potential for further growth is striking, the report, published on Thursday, finds. In Valais, which alone boasts over one-quarter of all Swiss Airbnb rentals, the percentage of Airbnb beds as a total of hotel beds grew from 57% to 73% in the space of only six months.

In the three Airbnb ‘capitals’ in the Alps, the study reports that the numbers of privately-offered beds largely outnumber the hotel beds. The town of Bagnes (near ski resort Verbier) has the most beds on offer (3,500 compared to 1,500 in hotels); Zermatt and the village of Anniviers come in second and third place, respectively.

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Report author Roland Schegg is quoted in the Nordwestschweiz newspaper as saying that “in the cities, Airbnb has little potential for growth as the pressure from the primary housing market is high. In the mountains, on the other hand, the boom will continue as there are many other apartments.”

As regions boasting high numbers of secondary homes – in Valais, there are over 100,000 – “room for further growth remains significant” the study says.

Schegg also says that the mentality is different; whereas hotels and individuals worry about the impact in cities, in mountain areas Airbnb is increasingly seen as an opportunity. Such diverse accommodation offerings are not new – “only the sales channels are shifting,” he says.

Airbnb is often criticised for bypassing local tax laws, and has yet to be explicitly regulated by Swiss authorities.

In the country overall, the Tourobs report finds, the average price per bed on Airbnb remains stable at about CHF73 ($75). Urban cantons are more expensive in general, with Basel City topping out the scale at an average price of CHF121.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR