london

Does Brexit mean disaster for London tourism?

While the feeling of ‘Bregret’ seems for us and many inevitable, now is the time for coming together to encourage constructive conversation and decisions for the reality of a Britain outside of the EU. Here at The Air Agents we strongly believe that London will remain a travel hub that attracts people from far and wide for the richness of its culture as well as the global connections and business opportunities it offers.

We believe that the 60% of Londoners who voted to remain speaks to the cosmopolitanism, diversity and multiculturalism that not only makes London a wonderful and unique city but is indeed celebrated by the vast majority who call it home. Tourism is a huge contributor to the UK economy raising £22 billion in 2015. And with half of that figure being spent in London, tourism makes a crucial contribution to the growth of smaller and emerging businesses here. This boost to our local business is further enhanced by the increasing number of people opting for short-stay accommodation in one of the properties we manage across the city’s 32 boroughs. 

An incredible 18.6 million people visited London last year - a figure up by 23% since 2009 - and according to figures released by Visit Britain, 72% of those visits are for between 1 and 7 nights. Indeed short-stay accommodation has made the capital more accessible and attractive to many people here on city breaks, family holidays and business trips - whether in terms of a more local, personal or more cost-effective experience. And while the weakening of the Sterling will unfortunately have a negative affect on some UK businesses (particularly those importing from EU countries) it will strengthen the purchasing power of tourists travelling to London, especially in the near future while the currency stabilises.

The government has rightly viewed the increase in short-lets as a positive for our communities and local businesses and in light of Brexit we urge them to continue to support these ‘micro-entrepreneurs’ who need the governments pro-business, pro-sharing economy stance to continue, now more than ever.

As the dust begins to settle and we experience the inevitable ups and downs in the months ahead, we will continue to fulfil our role both in encouraging the entrepreneurship of the property hosts we represent and their contribution to the sharing economy. And just as importantly continue to extend a warm welcome to visitors from all over the world who come to explore, experience and enjoy this great city we call home.

21,000 empty homes during a housing crisis... a unique London problem with a modern solution?

You may have read the recent article in the Evening Standard regarding the unbelievable number of empty homes in London; figures show that more than 21,000 homes, including those privately owned have been empty for over 6 months. This represents almost £12.4 billion worth of housing and according to Dan Ganesha, property expert at crowdfunding platform Property Partner, is a “shocking waste of opportunity and nothing short of a scandal”.

The sheer volume of under-utilised housing in the capital indicates the problem is not just limited to all those Kensington penthouses that have been bought up by oil tycoons. Numerous other factors seem to be at work here and as Sadiq Khan outlines his goals during his term stating “The key thing for me is to tackle the housing crisis”, we think a very modern trend can be harnessed to provide more homes for professional Londoners -

At The Air Agents we believe there is an opportunity to use the principles of the sharing economy to pioneer a completely new approach to help ease the crisis. We all know that many Londoners are opening up their homes to tourists for short term holiday lets via platforms like Airbnb. Well imagine if that brilliant idea was applied to hundreds of empty London homes via a government backed website that allowed people with empty properties to source professional UK based tenants for 3-12 month periods? A ‘domestic Airbnb for UK based workers’ if you will.

Property owners would not have to lock themselves into a long term tenancy agreement and would have complete flexibility in determining exactly what dates are available for letting. They could access a government approved tenancy agreement via the platform, (amending it as per necessary) and of course stipulate what type of tenants would be considered. To use the service, potential tenants would require a verified ID (just like Airbnb guests today) and would gain access to an easy-to-use database of potentially thousands of properties, not currently available in the lettings market. Furthermore they would be able to quickly and efficiently see what was available and at what price in their chosen area.

As a company with plenty of experience in short term lets, we at The Air Agents know how flexible the model can be. Whilst we predominantly deal with holiday-makers, previous guests have been as diverse as contract workers requiring accommodation for a few weeks, to a family in zone 4 needing a place to live for a few months whilst their home was being renovated. The point being that new technology opens up new possibilities, bringing with it the chance to make under utilised space available for renters at a time when young Londoners need it the most!

Sadiq Khan listed this issue as the main priority in his manifesto. We say it’s time to explore this new avenue to help deliver on this promise.

The Economist - we’re questioning your integrity!

We’ve been talking about writing a London property blog and have written a couple of really useful pieces that we were almost ready to publish, but today, getting a plane back from Dublin, reading The Economistand in particular this article here ‘Build them and they will come’ (economist.com) - I knew we had to set the record straight..

With their industry under threat the behemoths of the hotel industry are spreading negative PR and using their influence to attempt to damage and undermine the ever growing sharing economy. Londoners I implore you not to listen to this nonsense; there is enormous demand from overseas visitors wanting to rent holiday homes in the capital and YOU can profit from the sharing economy.

As a business that provides property management for short-term lets, we have first hand experience of what's happening on the ground - we are having property owners approach us each week to sign up as clients and we’re filling their properties every day with tourist families, couples and business travellers. Both supply and demand are booming as smart Londoners realise there is a great opportunity to generate an extra income or at the very least help pay for their next holiday whilst they are away.

There has been a lot of pressure on the sharing economy of late, with the House of Lords suddenly taking an interest and a flurry of negative stories coming out, it doesn't take a genius to work out that the extremely well connected hotel chains are influencing this wave of negativity. If I'd just built a £50 million hotel in London, maybe I’d be doing the same; but have The Economist forgotten that the sharing economy is a benefit to ‘the people’ and it's better to help ‘the people’ rather than topping up Paris Hilton’s trust (vodka) fund?

Whilst the article refers to “apps that allow people to rent out their spare rooms to.. budget-conscious holidaymakers” nowhere is there any mention of entire house/apartment rentals which, for example account for 53% of all listings on Airbnb (insideairbnb.com). It is precisely these type of rentals that hotel owners are fearful of as they are the most attractive to their mass market customer base i.e. the tourist families, couples and business travellers we mentioned earlier who would prefer to rent an entire property and ‘live like a local’ instead of living out of a suitcase in another hotel room.

Take for example the distribution of Airbnb listings across London here (airdna.co), clearly shows the huge variety of areas in which you can rent anything from an entire detached house to a private room; From Barnet to Merton, Lewisham to Lambeth we see people embracing the sharing economy and using these platforms to generate an additional income - and when you are living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, we for one would applaud that.

Indeed over 60% of Airbnb profiles are single listings i.e. in which the host is advertising just a single room or one property (Source: insideairbnb.com), which indicates many regular Londoners are getting switched on to the possibilities of using these platforms.

The Economist we know there is always going to be a demand for central London and zone 1, but its missing the point to suggest that with around 18 million international visitors expected in 2016, the collective desire of those people revolves around being within a stone's throw of Big Ben and watching the Changing of the Guard. People come to our great city for all sorts of reasons, with a multitude of agendas and tastes that are not necessarily catered for by a new Ibis in Piccadilly or £400/night boutique hotel in Knightsbridge!

As for the supposed slowdown in rooms for rent on Airbnb, hoteliers should take note of PwC UK Hotels leader Samantha Ward, who said in a recent speech that in 2015 hotel numbers would have grown by 5 per cent while Airbnb would have exploded 100 per cent. She went on to say "Given it (Airbnb) is such a young supply it's huge in comparison" (meetpie.com). Considering there are roughly 30,000 rooms available via Airbnb in London (up from precisely zero just a few years ago) and notwithstanding the stock on massive sites like Homeaway and Tripadvisor, it is no wonder the hotel industry is running scared... unfortunately this seems to have resulted in this respectable magazine publishing an article about ‘Why the room-booking app has had so little impact in the capital’. Well that is simply not true.

So Londoners, please don't listen to the negativity, speak to people around you and feel the buzz for yourself. The Economist, if you want to write a balanced article about the sharing economy give us a call after you speak to Mr Hilton and Mr Marriott next time!

Rant over - next blog post will be about first time buying in London, so please come back - you should find it useful.