Historically, Airbnb hasn’t had the best rapport with the markets it enters (and disrupts). It has often found itself at odds with housing regulations and the interests of both legacy hoteliers and others in the hospitality space.
But in Latin America, said Bloomberg News, the homeshare company is taking a different approach — it’s cooperating with local governments. The company has reportedly made an agreement to collect and remit taxes in Mexico City, providing 3 percent of hosts’ booking revenue to the city government.
And it’s not stopping there. The company reportedly looks to replicate the tax model throughout the region, recently reaching agreements with local governments in India and China.
The reason for the agreements seems to be that Latin America is now the company’s fastest-growing market, with some 250,000 properties listed in Mexico, Cuba, South America and parts of the Caribbean. The company reports that Latin American bookings grew 148 percent in the past year.
“This is just the beginning,” Airbnb head of policy Chris Lehane told Bloomberg. “We’re prepared to be flexible and experiment.”
Lehane was quoted as saying that the company plans to take a friendly approach throughout Latin America and is discussing similar tax agreements with city governments in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and São Paulo, Brazil. Airbnb reportedly expects to double its staff in the region by the end of 2017, to quadruple it within the next two years and to open new offices in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
However, the company will have to navigate a complex payment space as it continues to grow. Bloomberg noted, for instance, that approximately half of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean are un- or underbanked. Even fewer have payment cards, and payment practices vary from market to market.
The company is currently experimenting with different payment systems across its Latin American markets, Lehane told Bloomberg, adding, “We have to figure out how our product can be consistent with how people are used to working.”