Councils and tourism bosses are contacting short-lets landlords and asking them them stop offering properties to rent in a bid to get the message across that people should not travel over the holiday weekend.

Cornwall has been leading the charge, with the county council fielding complaints that some holiday accommodation providers are still hosting guests and operating illegally.

It’s urging letting agents and online booking platforms to follow Government closure orders and reject bookings during the emergency period.

With temperatures expected to soar this week, other holiday hotspots in Kent have also been found to be flouting the new law. When a local newspaper approached hosts around the county to enquire about the Easter break it found some in Margate and Whitstable willing to take their money. A search of beachside village Sandgate returned 61 rental listings for a three-night stay this coming weekend.

A BBC investigation earlier this week also discovered Airbnb hosts listing homes as being “Covid-19 retreats” and “perfect for isolating with family” in the British countryside, with some allowing instant booking of rentals without any vetting. Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston labelled these hosts “incredibly irresponsible” and said they could face fines of up to £960 for breaking the rules.

Airbnb has stepped in to block listings for shared properties, remove the instant book feature and ban adverts seeking to exploit the Covid-19 outbreak.

A banner in the ‘host dashboard’ on the platform reminds hosts to review the latest Government guidance and regulations before accepting any new bookings and guests are reminded about local travel restrictions when searching. 

A spokesman says: “We want to help hosts and guests follow the rules and we are working on further measures to help everyone follow government guidance and keep people safe.”

The site enables hosts to offer accommodation during the crisis and, although some are offering theirs exclusively to NHS and frontline staff (see an example here) there is no blanket shut-down yet by the platform. Instead it has published a statement at the top of all its listings saying: “Check travel restrictions before booking.The health and safety of our communities come first. Please follow government guidelines and travel only if it’s essential.”

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