Today we’re launching a series of interviews with innovators who are part of our program and work on changing the urban ecosystem of Berlin and beyond.
Our first interviewee is Ellen Madeker, Head of Public Policy DACH, CEE & Russia, at Airbnb. Ellen is sharing her insights on technological innovations and smart solutions for short-term rentals to ensure that the return of travel is safe and more sustainable.
Tell us about your professional background and your role in the company.
I joined Airbnb in May as the Head of Public Policy for Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Central and Eastern Europe, and Russia. I have a background in tourism and policy work – with a true passion for politics – and hold a Ph.D. in Sociology. My goal is to foster exchange on the topics of digitisation of tourism with industry and political stakeholders. Berlin is internationally recognised as a tech hub – but also a fascinating city loved by tourists. If we bring these two dimensions together, there is a lot of potential that we can tap into.
What topics/technologies are important for Airbnb? Why?
The travel recovery has become a travel revolution – since I have a background in tourism, I am intrigued by that change. Zoom and similar services are just some examples of technological innovations that disrupt the travel industry. They have given us the opportunity to choose not to travel at all, such as for business, or to travel anywhere at any time, such as for people who work remotely, to see their families and friends. Technologies that enable remote work have fundamentally altered the rationale for travel and I am sure there are many more innovations to support remote work to come.
Why is the Smart City topic important for your company?
Cities worldwide are increasingly making use of digital tools. This is great because it facilitates collaboration and makes it more effective. At Airbnb, we enable the digital collection of tourism tax in many German cities such as Frankfurt am Main, Dresden, Dortmund, and Wiesbaden. This is just one example that shows how valuable innovative tools can be for cities, Hosts, and businesses – we would love to do that in Berlin, too.
As a tech company, we are proud of the Airbnb City Portal, a first-of-its-kind digital solution, built exclusively for governments and tourism organizations. The portal provides insights into short-term rental market characteristics in different cities and data on the travel behavior of guests. Tourism organizations can e.g. get insights on where guests are coming from and further aggregated data that create more transparency.
What does the concept of Smart City mean for you and how does it relate to the model of sustainable urban development?
Our aim is to rebalance tourism and ensure that the return of travel is safe, sustainable, and benefits everyone – this explicitly includes the protection of housing in cities. We know that Berliners are worried about housing shortage and affordability and we take these topics very seriously. We want to support the state of Berlin in protecting housing and find a fair solution for short-term rentals. That is why we have voluntarily introduced a registration requirement for new listings on Airbnb – you can read more about this here: https://news.airbnb.com/de/airbnb-fuhrt-registrierungspflicht-fur-neue-inserate-ein. This is a deliberate step because we support fair and transparent rules for everybody and want to help Hosts to follow the rules.
With a new government in place, I hope that the idea of a digital registration system for short-term rentals will gain momentum. Currently, applying for a registration number for your home in your district (at your “Bürgeramt”) has to be done on paper. This is a complicated and outdated process. The benefits of a smart, digital solution are obvious: The administration gets a comprehensive overview of short-term rentals, “bad actors” are detected more quickly, and housing is protected.
Thanks, Ellen for giving us these insightful answers!