What The Dickins: A Tale Of Edinburgh City

12,000 Airbnbs in Edinburgh? Fact or Fiction….

If you have been aware of the conversation concerning Edinburgh short term lets over the past few years, you will probably have read that there are 12,000 Airbnbs in Edinburgh. 12,000 Airbnbs. That seems like a massive figure, doesn’t it? So, is it a statement of fact or fiction? Let’s take a look……

12000 airbnbs in Edinburgh. Fact or Fiction

Are there 12000 Airbnbs in Edinburgh like they’ve told you in the media there are?

12,000 Airbnbs in Edinburgh – Fact or Fiction?

What is the source of the figure?

It comes from a website Inside Airbnb. Inside Airbnb is a mission driven project that provides data and advocacy about Airbnb’s impact on residential communities. They work towards a vision where data and information empowers communities to understand, decide and control the role of renting residential homes to tourists.

If you go to the Get Data section of their website and search for Edinburgh, you can download a .csv file which contains the filters that you need to analyse the data. You don’t need to be tech savvy to do this. It is simple.

So far, so easy. But have the many people who have used the 12,000 Airbnb figure decided to understand or analyse the data they have quoted? It seems not. When we logically filtered the data, distilling it down to Non Domestic Rates qualifying entire homes, the figures are nowhere near what is frequently used to generate headline grabbing articles and, more concerningly, drive policy change both at Holyrood and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Where did it start and who has used the 12,000 figure?

It all started in a business news article What the Airbnb Surge means for UK Cities published by the BBC on their website on 25th April 2019. They attribute their data source as Inside Airbnb. In an article where you need to prove what damage ‘the surge’ is doing, it’s going to help if the figures you quote are a high as possible, isn’t it?

They claimed “Edinburgh’s 12,000 listings work out to around one Airbnb listing for every 42 residents” Wow, that’s a lots of Airbnbs! The BBC then quoted Councillor Kate Campbell (SNP), housing convenor at City of Edinburgh Council  “Short term lets are having a terrible impact. They are hollowing out communities, both in the city centre and increasingly across Edinburgh. Residents are putting up with high levels of anti-social behaviour and, very worryingly for us, we believe there is a huge impact on housing supply.”

Google 12,000 Airbnbs Edinburgh and you’ll see an extremely long list of all the people who have widely used the figure from multiple media outlets and community groups and organisations like the Cockburn Association , long term lettings agents and decision makers at the Scottish Parliament and the City of Edinburgh Council.

12000 airbnbs in Edinburgh? Fact or Fiction?

Are Edinburgh locals being deprived of homes due to Airbnb?

Edinburgh’s Airbnbs and the housing crisis….

And just like in Councillor Kate Campbell’s quote above, the reason for Edinburgh’s housing supply crisis is frequently laid at the door of short term letting in the city. The 12,000 figure stuck. It was easy to remember and sounded horrific. So, it was a perfect talisman for a cause that wanted to see short term lets licensed and regulated.

And it worked for them. Early in 2022 the Scottish Government voted to introduce licensing for all short term lets and B&B’s across Scotland. Then on 1st August 2022, ironically just as the best of the world’s cultural folk arrived in the city to put on a Festival for the first time in three years, The Scottish Government announced that it had ratified Edinburgh’s Planning Control Zone, requiring short term lets in the city to apply for a planning change of use as well as a license. Have we ended up with a wrecking ball to crack a peanut?

Have there ever been 12,000 Airbnb’s depriving residents of homes in the city? So many that the powers that be decided that large scale licensing and planning legislation is needed to deal with the problem?

Fact or Fiction? Let’s analyse the data…….

December 2019

We have Inside Airbnb figures from December 2019. It shows a headline total of 13,363 Airbnb listings in Edinburgh. But that includes shared rooms, private rooms and hotel rooms as well as entire homes. So, let’s break it down.

  • Shared rooms – 39
  • Hotel rooms – 188
  • Private rooms – 4,821
  • Entire homes – 8,315
12000 airbnbs in Edinburgh. Fact or fiction?

December 2019 Edinburgh listings broken down by property type


June 2022

We have not seen much evidence of organisations quoting more recent figures. That is strange because figures from June 22 are available. As we all know in the intervening three years, there have been massive world crises – Covid, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living etc. which have had a massive effect on travel and tourism. In fact, so massive that the headline total is down by 49% to 6,767. But it also needs breaking down into property type.

  • Shared rooms – 25
  • Hotel rooms – 75
  • Private rooms – 1,928
  • Entire homes – 4,739

June 2019 airbnb listing in Edinburgh broken down by property type.

There’s been a 49% drop in Edinburgh Airbnb listings since December 2019

Entire Homes which are let for 140 days or more a year

So, we have an ‘Entire Home’ figure in December 2019 of 8,315 and in June 22 of 4,739. But these figures are still not accurate as they include all the listings for Entire Homes. If the housing crisis is being laid at the door of short term lets, then we need to look at the homes which are being professionally let throughout the year, not just for a week when you go on holiday.

So, we added a second filter for homes which are available for 140 days or more a year. We chose 140 days, because to qualify for Non Domestic Rates (NDR) the property has to be available for 140 days a year.

The impact on the figures is massive.

  • December 2019 Entire Edinburgh Homes available on Airbnb for 140 days or more/year – 3,129
  • June 2022 Entire Edinburgh Homes available on Airbnb for 140 days or more/year – 1,781

12,000 Airbnbs in Edinburgh. It is fiction not fact!

From the lofty headline figures of 12,000 or in fact 13,363 in December 2019, we are down to 1,781 entire homes across the whole of Edinburgh which are available for 140 days or more a year. 1,781. And this figure includes old listings and duplications, so the reality will surely be less.

It is hugely frustrating that so much time and energy has gone into finding ways to close down 1,781 businesses in the city. Most run by totally decent already self-regulating professionals like Dickins.

You can filter further by Airbnb designated area. The City of Edinburgh Council has created a Planning Control Zone of the whole city because they stated there was such a problem with short term lets numbers. So, there was definitely a huge problem wasn’t there? Well no, as you can see that is not the case. It turns out there isn’t and never has been.

In June 2022, these are the top 10 area breakdowns for Entire Homes let for 140 days or more ranked in order of numbers

  • Old Town, Princes Street and Leith – 319
  • Tollcross – 104
  • New Town West – 101
  • Canongate, Southside and Dumbliedykes – 83
  • Dalry and Fountainbridge – 67
  • Hillside and Calton Hill – 51
  • New Town East and Gayfield – 47
  • The Shore and Constitution Street – 39
  • Abbeyhill – 36
  • Broughton North and Powderhall – 35

Who are Dickins?

We are a short term letting agent and employer with an office on Dundas Street and a 24 hour emergency phone. We’ve been letting homes in the city for 24 years. We have chosen to self-regulate, so we don’t use lock boxes or advertise sofa beds. Our homes have the same safety certification as long term let properties. We positively shy away from parties. Ironically, we have never used Airbnb or any other portals. All our bookings come to us directly. Most of the wonderful homes we look after are second homes, which are opened up to be used, rather than closed down when the owners are not there.

Dickins provide a vital role in the city, letting homes to/for:-

  • The Edinburgh Festival
  • Blue chip companies
  • Film companies housing staff
  • Locals needing temporary accommodation
  • Individuals relocating to the city
  • Fulbright scholars
  • Visiting academics
  • Tourists

Over the years, we have caused neighbours a handful of issues (mostly crying children.) We provide a great deal of temporary accommodation for people who need it, often for four weeks or longer. Dickins is a business the city should feel proud of. I certainly feel proud of the business I created and run. Yet, depending on what rules The City of Edinburgh Council decides are required for their new Planning Control Zone, we will either be able to remain in business or we won’t.

And given that the whole requirement for these rules appears to have been based on fiction and not fact, it felt important that we set the record straight. After all, it’s not just the future of Dickins on the line, but hundreds of other small businesses providing a vital role for Edinburgh’s economy as well as very important events in the city like the Edinburgh Festival who need short term letting to function.

There is an awful lot at stake. I’m not sure why it is me writing this blog instead of Airbnb, but there you go. There are some mysteries in life. But having read my blog, you will no longer be mystified by the numbers of short term lets in Edinburgh.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please share to help get the truth out there.

Louise Dickins







  • Richard

    August 13, 2022 at 8:39 am

    Great article. Its easy to make falsehoods and publicity on inaccurate data. People love a scandal but the truth, its uninteresting.


    • Dickins

      August 14, 2022 at 8:15 am

      Thank you Richard. Depressing but true and seemingly everywhere in public life these days.

  • Graeme Forbes

    August 11, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    Fantastic job shining a light on this oft peddled myth. You have done a great service to those of us who fear the cold hand of state control and the politics of envy.
    One wonders what AirBnb’s reasons are for failing to trumpet these figures to those who seek to make crucial life changing decisions based on nothing more than conjecture.
    Thank you for your efforts on our behalf.


    • Dickins

      August 12, 2022 at 2:02 pm

      Thanks Graeme, that’s appreciated.

      Best wishes,


  • Alan Macdonald

    August 11, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    Great piece Louise and thank you for putting it out there. This licensing scheme will have a huge impact on tourism across Scotland over the coming years and Scottish Gov do not seem to even considered this. Alan Macdonald Glasgow Green Apartments


    • Dickins

      August 12, 2022 at 2:01 pm

      Thanks Alan. You should do the same for the figures in Glasgow!

      Best wishes,

  • Drew McFarlane-Slack

    August 10, 2022 at 12:45 pm

    Well done, shining a light on this dark corner should be a game changer, but are the data irrelevant to the lawmakers?


    • Dickins

      August 10, 2022 at 1:01 pm

      Thanks Drew. It’s all part of changing the negative narrative about our industry and highlighting why it is a vital part of the accommodation offering in the city and needs to remain part of the offering.

  • Ralph Averbuch

    August 10, 2022 at 12:01 pm

    What’s most depressing is that small businesses, owned by people in and around the city, who pay taxes and employ staff, are being hounded out of business on what amounts to a half-witted (at best) failure to really READ the available data, compounded by vocal lobbying groups that sought to blow the true scale way beyond the reality on the ground. But now we have a whole bunch more costs and impediments to business… none of which will affect the availability of affordable housing one bit and none of which will have any effect on the ever-growing number of foreign-owned hotels extracting money out of the city. Well done SNP. Own goal achieved.


    • Dickins

      August 10, 2022 at 1:08 pm

      Agreed. We need to change the narrative to reflect the important role us professionals play in cities accommodation offering and that we are the solution and not the problem.

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