Airbnb donates £1.25m to UK cultural heritage

Airbnb donates £1.25m to UK cultural heritage

English Heritage, the public body in charge of managing England’s cultural heritage, has accepted a £1.25 million donation from Airbnb to support the US online portal’s attempt to “boost heritage tourism” and continue the conservation of the most important historic sites and houses in the United Kingdom.

But not all that glitters is gold. Airbnb recently came under fire after new data revealed a sharp increase in the number of short-term rental adverts in coastal areas of England and Wales, raising fears of ‘theme parks for the rich’.

Housing campaigners say the trend indicates homeowners in popular vacation spots may be favoring tourists over renters at a time when so many people are struggling as the cost of living rises. The Silicon Valley company replied that the donation is part of a larger project aimed at “enhancing cultural heritage” promoted by the platform: “We are proud to make a contribution to English Heritage which will benefit both local communities and tourists, who will be able to enjoy England’s rich cultural history, including hidden gems in some of the less visited rural and countryside areas“said Amanda Cupples, Airbnb general manager for Northern Europe.

English Heritage manages more than 400 historic sites across England, including Stonehenge and Dover Castle, and as a registered charity relies on the support of donations to protect the future of these iconic places. As reported in a recent Guardian articleWill McMahon, director of the Action on Empty Homes association, who coordinated the campaign Action on Short Letsquestioned whether English Heritage should accept a donation from Airbnb: “Airbnb’s donation seems to serve only one purpose: it’s a kind of cultural greenwashing for what has become an investment platform that takes homes out of residential use and worsens our housing crisis”.

He added: “Airbnb clearly has a strategic understanding of its vulnerabilities and, in my view, is making corporate donations to offset the bad publicity it is receiving across the country due to short-term rentals impacting longstanding local communities in the city, on the coast and in the countryside”.

Not surprisingly, the donation to the charity, which acts as guardian of the country’s architectural heritage, follows the launch of the new category of historic homes that the rental giant has included as places to stay since July.

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