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Local leaders discuss pros and cons of short-term accommodation rentals at NAT commission meeting  
The benefits and potential pitfalls of short-term rentals were the main topics of debate at the meeting of the European Committee of the Regions' commission for Natural Resources (NAT) on 31 January. A lively debate including local representatives, MEPs and representatives from the short-term rental sector concluded that while there were clear benefits to the local economy of these rentals, more regulation was needed to ensure local accommodation needs are prioritised.

During the debate on short-term rentals, Isilda Maria Prazeres Gomes , Mayor of Portimão in Portugal and chair of the NAT commission, highlighted that: "Short-term rentals are an opportunity for regions and cities. They develop tourism, create new travels habits but also challenges. To overcome these challenges, we need regulation, to give the regions and cities the capacity to provide housing for all. Homes are for people, not for profit"

Also taking part in the debate were the European Parliament rapporteur, Kim Van Sparrentak (NL/Greens) and Airbnb's director for Europe, Emmanuel Marill. Proposals and concerns were collected in a draft opinion by Roberto Ciambetti (IT/ECR), President of the Veneto Regional Council entitled Balancing local communities', entrepreneurs' and travellers' needs linked to short-term rentals which was adopted during the meeting. The draft opinion is to be adopted during the plenary session on in March.

After the worse phases of the pandemic, the sector saw a massive bounce-back over the first nine months of last year, with 450 million nights spent in beds booked through one of the four major online collaborative economy platforms (Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group, Tripadvisor), an increase of 57.4% compared to 2021. To ensure a balanced development of tourism services on the ground, European cities and regions need free access to data, increased transparency and all necessary tools to properly regulate short-term rental online platforms..

The European Commission addressed transparency concerns through a legal governance framework, which will allow for an easier and more efficient data sharing process.

NAT members also adopted the draft opinion on Targets and tools for a Smart Rural Europe, by Radim Sršeň (CZ/EPP), which underlines how the digital and technological transition can be a new opportunity to create a diversified rural economy and facilitate access to the labour market. A key goal is to encourage young people to continue living in rural areas, reversing the so-called brain drain, but NAT members stressed that more funding and concrete measures were needed to make this goal achiev​able in the long term.

The other opinion adopted at the meeting was on the European Commission proposal for a Regulation on Sustainable use of pesticides in which members stressed the need for a more ambitious approach to the protection of health and biodiversity than the one followed for the Commission. The rapporteur Heinz-Joachim Höfer (DE/PES), Member of the Municipal Council of Altenkirchen, stressed that new rules should focus more on pesticides' toxicity than on their quantity, and the need for a better definition of "sensitive areas". The vote by the Plenary is scheduled in March.

Finally, NAT members exchanged views on Preparing for and dealing with crises: strengthening the resilience of the Union, its regions and cities - a draft opinion by Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES), and on Legislative framework for Sustainable food systems, a draft opinion led by Joke Schauvliege (BE/EPP).

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