"At the moment we suspect that there are 200 to 300 illegal hotels in the city," said Eikelboom, who couldn't confirm published reports suggesting the number of illegal tourist accommodations might be as high as 2,000. "But if you look at the amount offered at a site as Airbnb, it is likely to be higher than our estimates, we know that," he said.
Illegal hotels are often unsafe and a nuisance for neighborhoods that have to deal with more noise and garbage in the streets, the city's Center District said in June last year, when it first announced it would crack down on illegal accommodations for tourists. Running an illegal hotel is also an "extremely lucrative business," conducted at the expense of residents, businesses and regular hoteliers, it said at the time.
Most illegal hotels are located in the city's center, especially in the Red Light District. In the past three months, the Center District closed 10 illegal hotels because they were violating fire safety rules, said Eikelboom. Other illegal accommodations couldn't immediately be closed because of fire regulations, but the owners face high penalties if they do not comply with the city's demand to stop operating as a hotel.
The city is planning to resume its hunt for illegal hotels next week, and will certainly use all the information it can get, including information available on Airbnb, Eikelboom said.
Airbnb didn't reply to a request for comment.
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org