FRINGE bosses are under fire after naming controversial short-let giant Airbnb as an official accommodation partner.
Lothian Green MSP Andy Wightman criticised Fringe organisers for promoting an industry which he claims is blighting communities in the heart of the Capital and depriving locals of housing.
Airbnb says 120,000 people have booked with it for the festival which runs from August 3 to 27. And it claims Airbnb guests will boost Edinburgh’s economy by £48 million, with an estimated £33m spent in shops, restaurants and other businesses, and hosts earning a total of £15m.
As part of the deal, Airbnb will give £25,000 funding from its community tourism programme to support increased access at the Fringe.
Mr Wightman said: “There is a long tradition of festival lets in Edinburgh which are vital to the success of the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe.
“AirBnB, however, is a company that is turning a blind eye to unlawful short-term letting operations that are depriving local individuals and families of badly-needed long-term housing and depriving the city’s services and infrastructure of millions of pounds in tax.
“It’s disappointing to see the Fringe Society joining forces with the short-term lets industry when instead it could be working to balance sustainable tourism with the need to retain a sense of community in our city.”
Bill Cowan, of the Old Town Community Council, accused Fringe organisers of failing to pay attention to the needs of city-centre communities.
He said: “The reason people like Edinburgh is it’s a living city but there are less and less people living in it all the time.
“We have nothing against Airbnb as such, it’s just it needs regulated – and thankfully the wheels are in motion to do something about that.”
Airbnb said Leith was the most popular place for its guests to stay, followed by the Old Town and New Town.
Natasha Mytton Mills, UK policy manager for Airbnb, said the company was proud to return as an official accommodation partner.
She added: “Local hosts are allowing visitors to experience this iconic event and providing them with an enjoyable, safe stay in all parts of the city. We are particularly pleased to have supported accessibility at the Fringe this year.”
Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: “Removing barriers to attending the Fringe for artists and audiences is a key priority for the Fringe Society. Support from Airbnb’s community tourism programme will enable us to develop new and existing access initiatives, to ensure everyone can participate in and enjoy all the Fringe has to offer.
“The initiatives that will benefit from this support include our Fringe Days Out scheme, which provides Fringe vouchers and Lothian bus tickets to Edinburgh based charities, to reach people who have never experienced the Fringe before, and the provision of a Mobiloo Changing Place at the Fringe, for those who cannot use standard accessible toilets.”