When short-term rental leader Airbnb announced it would become a worldwide partner of the IOC and the Olympic Games in 2019, it was a bold statement by the then 11-year-old company about how fast it had grown and the strength of its business.
While the brand has certainly benefited from its role of providing the Olympic movement with “travel options that are economically empowering, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable,” there appears to be one goal that has been difficult to achieve.
Recent social media posts from sports business insiders who are likely to know state that a top reason for Airbnb’s TOP sponsorship was to build relationships with government officials in Olympic host cities and countries in an effort to slow down legislative and regulatory efforts to restrict the short-term rental market.
Concerns over the industry’s impact on affordable housing have led municipalities around the globe to limit short-term rentals. In September, New York City enacted what Airbnb calls a “de facto ban” on its business, with restrictions including that hosts can only be those who live in the place they are renting out, must be present when someone is staying, can host no more than two guests at a time and must register with the city.
If Airbnb could stall such legislation in the upcoming Olympic host cities of Paris, Milan and Los Angeles, those social media posts estimate it would be worth $2 billion to the company, a significantly positive ROI on its sponsorship spend.
But thus far, Airbnb’s status as the Olympic Games’ “official unique accommodation products, unique experiences services and Olympian experiences services” partner has not stemmed the tide in those locations.
Paris has similar restrictions to New York’s regarding principal residences and registration. In addition, a coalition of 20 communities across France—including Marseille, another Olympic host city—this summer called on the French government to tighten national restrictions on short-term rental platforms.
In Italy, where Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo will host the 2026 Winter Games, the government is seeking to raise the tax rate on short-term rentals from 21 percent to 26 percent, while the Milan-based public prosecutor’s office for tax offenses announced this month that it was poised to seize about $836 million from Airbnb as a result of the company’s alleged failure to pay taxes owed by landlords using the platform.
And in Los Angeles, which has had restrictions in place since 2019, activists and community groups have continuously applied public pressure on members of the city council and planning commission to not create special exceptions for Airbnb because of its partnership with LA28.
None of this is to say that Airbnb is not seeing positive returns from its Olympic association based on multiple other objectives. But if it did intend for its nine-year, five-games partnership to help it put the brakes on government intervention, that appears to be a non-starter.