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French hotels protest 'outrageous' Airbnb-Olympics deal

IOC President Thomas Bach, left, announced the deal at a London press conference with Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia on Tuesday (AFP Photo/Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)

Biarritz (France) (AFP) - French hotel owners attacked Airbnb on Wednesday over its new partnership with the International Olympics Committee, with some promising an ethics complaint against the deal with the US home-sharing giant.

"Airbnb doesn't play by the rules, and must be disqualified," the GNI association of independent hotels said in a statement during an industry gathering in the Atlantic coast resort town of Biarritz.

French hotels have long accused Airbnb of unfair competition by operating with only cursory regulatory oversight, and have been lobbying authorities for a crackdown on short-term tourist rentals.

The GNI said it would file a protest with the IOC's ethics commission, as well as the organising committee for the 2024 summer Games in Paris.

"This partnership is inappropriate and it is outrageous to make this company, which spurs deregulation in countries around the world, a global partner of the IOC," said the heads of the UMIH, the main trade group for French hotels, and the GCN alliance of chain hotels.

The UMIH sued Airbnb in June 2018 for "knowingly violating" rules imposed as part of a crackdown in one of the US giant's biggest markets.

Paris alone has 65,000 listings on Airbnb, and there are thousands more in the nearby suburbs that will house many of the venues for the 2024 Olympics.

- 'Where is the morality?'-

The city's mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has also vowed to tighten oversight of Airbnb rentals after warning IOC President Thomas Bach about the "risks" of the partnership.

Hidalgo, who is up for re-election next May, promised to hold a vote on how home-sharing platforms should be regulated, at a time when many residents blame Airbnb for driving up rents.

"Where is the morality?" UMIH president Roland Heguy told AFP. "We worked since the beginning on this candidacy with the Paris 2024 organising committee."

Asked about the opposition from hotels, Airbnb said in a statement Wednesday that "this historic accord aims to allow host cities to welcome the Games in a more local, authentic and sustainable manner".

It noted that Airbnb had already been a national partner for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and that "its values are in line with those of the Olympic movement".

Its nine-year deal with the IOC, announced on Monday, puts it in the league of Coca-Cola and Visa as a "Top" partner, the highest sponsorship level.

The partnership starts with the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo, runs through the Beijing winter Games two years later, the 2024 Paris summer Olympics, the 2026 winter Games in Milan-Cortina, and ends with the Los Angeles summer events in 2028.