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Hotels in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean are worried about the growing number of illegal vacation rentals in the area. Although tourists may find good deals on online platforms like Airbnb, the hospitality industry says that many properties operate on the black market, avoiding strict health and safety requirements. Some estimates put the number of irregular online rentals at more than 50,000 in Quintana Roo alone.
With the informal rental economy booming in recent years, hotels in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean are demanding that the government take more decisive action to regulate online rentals. There are currently several options for renting vacation homes online, including popular applications like Airbnb. Meanwhile, other people head to social media, such as Facebook or Instagram, but this should be avoided due to the risk of being scammed.
The issue has plagued Cancun’s hotels for some time already. After the pandemic, people increasingly started booking home stays and Airbnb-type accommodation, valuing privacy, flexibility, and a sense of community. However, with many online properties failing to comply with local regulations, as well as avoiding taxes, Cancun hotels are demanding action from the government.
The issue of taxation should not be overlooked, as many properties could be engaging in unfair competition, undermining legally operating hotels. According to Roberto Cintrón Gómez, the former head of the Cancun, Puerto Morelos, and Isla Mujeres Hotel Association, “we will continue to demand that property owners pay taxes. Although they are already paying state taxes, now they must also pay all municipal-level fees, and we will ask the government to monitor these properties”.
Authorities have pointed out that there is a long list of requirements ranging from security to transparency that all hospitality providers must comply with. Although not the case for all rental homes, many also lack the security features needed to ensure a safe stay, a critical feature taking into account the rising crime numbers in the state.
In order to operate legally, online vacation rentals must apply for the National Tourism Registry, in addition to obtaining certain sanitary certificates. Finally, they must comply with Civil Protection regulations and operate legally under the Secretary for Work and Social Regulation. Not all private rentals operate illegally, and authorities say that at least 30,000 users have completed the formal requirements to operate legally, but this is just a fraction of all the private rentals available on the market.
One of the major risks in operating outside of the legal and regulatory framework is that tourists are exposed to malpractice and fraud. For example, scammers may put up false ads imitating real homes, charging a hefty security deposit, only to disappear completely and leave tourists stranded without legal guarantees.
The total number of online rentals in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean is not fully known due to a lack of official statistics. That’s why some hotels have joined forces to analyze the situation and carry out a census to tally the total availability of holiday rentals. With thousands of properties available in Cancun alone, recent estimates point to at least 50,000 private rentals across the state. However, this is a conservative estimate, with the real number being significantly larger.
Cancun has recently seen a surge in new hotels being built, with up to 75% of all new hotel rooms in Mexico located in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean. At the same time, online private rentals continue to increase in popularity, prompting authorities to take a closer look at the market’s regulations. Even so, hotels say that many properties continue to evade taxes while reaping the benefits of increased international travel.
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