Tuesday. 28/5/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

Welcome news

Last week Airbnb announced that its website is now fully functional in Arabic, further opening up the world’s biggest home-sharing platform to new travellers and hosts ahead of a planned IPO this year. But how much more mileage does the sharing hospitality industry have left in it? Numerous crackdowns by cities from Amsterdam to New York are starting to dent its growth and it’s facing increasing competition from the likes of Booking.com and Expedia. Plus, as prices in many cities start to feel similar to proper hotels but minus the service, Airbnb is starting to look less and less attractive.

Good. Just as the death of physical retail was over-exaggerated, so too was the demise of the hotel at the hands of such companies (and when you stay in a good one, it’s obvious why). Sparkling clean rooms, a friendly face to help at any hour and the knowledge that you’re not helping drive up rents? Book us in.

Affairs / USA

Concerning reports

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will face an extradition hearing in London this week that could see him transported to the US and be charged with violating the country’s Espionage Act. While Sweden is also vying to investigate Assange for an allegation of rape, last week the US upped the ante by increasing the charges against him, with 17 new counts related to disclosing classified government information. This turn of events will likely see the UK home office bend to the US wishes and if Assange is convicted of all the crimes he is accused of, he will be sentenced to 175 years in prison. At a time when free speech is under attack and journalists are being silenced, the US is setting a poor example.

Transport / France

Honk if you’re angry

France’s National Union of Taxis has called for nationwide strikes and protests today, which could bring traffic around airports to a standstill. The outcry is directed at a new mobility law that is under discussion at the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament. In an attempt to reduce congestion, the law proposes giving some privileges to VTCs (unlicensed taxis such as Uber) that are normally reserved for licence-holders only. The most feather-ruffling of these is the right to use bus lanes, a near-sacred privilege enjoyed by licensed taxi drivers. Taxi licences are fiercely protected in the country because of their steep price: the last time they were under threat – by Uber – a four-day-long protest ensued.

Election / The Netherlands

Dutch disquiet

Yesterday saw the election of the Netherlands’ upper house, the 75-seat Senate. It’s done indirectly by the country’s regional parliaments, who were elected two months ago, and is not normally an especially exciting event. Except this time there’s a completely new party in town: Forum for Democracy. Led by nationalist Thierry Baudet – a eurosceptic and staunch anti-immigration campaigner – not only is the party arguably further right than Geert Wilders’ lot (who lost ground, by the way) but it also managed to get as many seats as the ruling VVD party in the March regional vote. The Senate is only allowed to reject or accept legislation, no more, but it’s another sign that populism is far from dead in the supposed homeland of tolerance.

Aviation / Global

Delays expected

The number of planes in the air is set to double over the next 20 years – a prediction that’s worrying environmental campaigners. Aviation companies are ploughing money and research efforts into hybrid and electric aircraft to make air travel cleaner. The latest is Scandinavia’s SAS, which last week announced that it would team up with Airbus to develop the infrastructure needed to support electric and hybrid aircraft. But it might be a case of too little, too late. “The big challenge involves scaling these aircraft to make it possible to carry passengers economically for distances of more than 50km,” says Murdo Morrison, head of strategic content at Flight Global. “Whether any of us will be flying in purely electric aircraft by 2040 remains very dubious.”

M24 / The Stack

Print is all we need

This week we speak to Lina Ghaibeh from the Arabic Comics Initiative. Plus: the return of Jocks & Nerds and Monocle 24’s Ben Rylan gives us the lowdown on the printed press at Cannes Film Festival.

Film / Australia

Perth: opportunity and regeneration

As Perth attempts to shed its reputation for being nothing more than a mining city we explore the architecture, art and hospitality initiatives that are shaping this outpost.

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