Saturday, 2 Mar 2024

UK city caught in AirBnb backlash sees landlords use Where’s Wally hack on keys

Short-term lets have always been a popular style of holiday stay for families, but choosing to let via the platform Airbnb has increased rapidly over the last few years. The spike in popularity appeared shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Inside Airbnb, there are now almost 340,000 Airbnb listings in England, Wales and Scotland. It is a number that has quadrupled since April 2016.

In Edinburgh alone, there are currently 7,698 Airbnb listings, according to the data analytic website. In the city’s New Town, which is the central area of Edinburgh, there are 298 Airbnb listings per 1,000 homes. In comparison, Liverpool city centre has 44 per 1,000 homes, according to data collated by The Sunday Times.

Travel expert, Roberto Bernardout, founder of, thinks although homeowners renting out rooms or houses can provide a financial buffer, it is “not all sunshine and international friendships” for locals. 

He explains: “The constant ebb and flow of unfamiliar faces might slowly erode the sense of community. Long-time residents could begin to feel like outsiders in their own neighbourhoods, and even claim that their communities are broken or killed.”

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Mr Bernardout understands there is tension between “economic gain” and “preserving the city’s legacy”. He said: “Edinburgh, with its rich history and charm, provides a telling example. The smaller, quaint hotels that once defined the city’s allure face stiff competition in the new rental landscape. While some adapt and evolve, embracing the change by offering unique experiences, others sadly close their doors.”

Residents living in Edinburgh say they have been playing a game of Where’s Wally around the city to spot key safes, which have been spotted in “odd” locations. It comes as hosts were warned they could face legal action if attached to doorways without permission from the building’s freehold. 

The CEO of the UK Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA), which represents the short-term rental sector, believes the government and sector need to work together to strike a good balance in every community and region of the UK.

Speaking exclusively to, Andy Fenner said: “It is easy to forget that holiday lets are a vital driver of investment into areas that don’t have other economic options.”

Commenting on the short-term letting trend, he explained: “People at the moment want to stay in holiday lets. Let’s let them stay in holiday lets and make sure they are of a high standard and that they work with the local community that they’re based in. Short-term lets contribute back to the local community, and they bring jobs and investments to communities too.”

He added: “If we don’t do this, more people will go abroad with their money to the South of France or Tuscany for example, rather than investing in the UK.”

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Meanwhile, residents who continue to live near the city centre Airbnbs explain how they can live in “chaos and worry” such as resident Gary Dickson, 55, as reported in Edinburgh Evening News.

He said: “Me and my son suffer from disturbances day and night. But the landlord ignores all concerns. The constant change of guests over the years has been unbearable, people hauling bags up the stairs at 2am, 3am.”

Reporting to The Sunday Times, the city centre’s green councillor at the time, Claire Miller commented on the visibility of key safes that line up beside the front doors of properties in Edinburgh. She said: “As part of the Airbnb explosion they are a very visual reminder of just how much housing we are losing into holiday rentals at a time when the city has an acute housing shortage.” has approached The City of Edinburgh Council for comment.

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