Airbnb’s “harmful” Iceland ad campaign

Photo: AFP

Airbnb could be using Iceland as a testing ground for an active Google advertising campaign – with negative social repercussions for locals, says a tourism studies expert.

Hermann Valsson has been monitoring Google adverts for accommodation in Iceland for the past six years. He recently conducted an experiment where he searched for ‘hotel reykjavik’ as if he were searching in the ten countries from which Iceland receives most tourists.

MORE: Room for 10,000 Airbnb guests in Reykjavik

Airbnb adverts appeared on the first page of results when Valsson computer was set to Denmark and the Netherlands, clearly showing that Airbnb has begun paying for Google adverts for searches for accommodation in Iceland.

Over 2,500 Airbnb offerings in Reykjavik.

Over 2,500 Airbnb offerings in Reykjavik. Screenshot

Valsson also checked for Airbnb adverts for searches for accommodation in the ten most popular tourist destination countries in the world – and found that comparable Airbnb adverts do not appear.

“It is only Iceland that [Airbnb] is targeting with full force to take the biggest slice of the cake possible,” he concludes, suggesting that the company might be using Iceland as a test case ahead of using the same method elsewhere. “They are attacking this market very hard.”

MORE: Airbnb banned in Vík, South Iceland

Valsson believes that the entry of Airbnb into the Icelandic market has had the negative effect of pushing up rental and property prices.

Most Airbnb flats are in the centre of Reykjavik.

Most Airbnb flats are in the centre of Reykjavik. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Ómar Óskarsson

“Young people are finding it considerably more difficult to rent as tourist accommodation is moving more and more from hotels to residential dwellings,” Valsson warns. “The consequences are huge.”

MORE: View on Iceland: Happiness, Airbnb and Performance Art

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