Airbnb is mobilising its hosts as it lobbies for a Queensland-wide bed tax in an effort to stop local governments imposing their own short-stay fees.
The homeshare giant has called on its 29,000 hosts across the state to write to their local MPs supporting Airbnb as it calls for a state-determined blanket tax which would apply to all short-stay accommodation providers, taking regulatory controls away from regional councils.At a local government conference in October, the Palasczuck government signalled its opposition to the introduction of a state tourism levy, preferring to leave responsibility with councils.
But when the majority of councils voted in support of Queensland-wide regulation, it agreed to set up an industry reference group to formulate a policy position by the second half of 2018.
“The share accommodation sector is growing and people want to be part of the action, but we also want to have protections for neighbours and residents in communities that are very popular,” said tourism minister Kate Jones.
Now Airbnb is asking the hosts of its listed properties to help in its press for a blanket tax ahead of the government’s decision, and in the face of action already taken by some local councils across the state to regulate short lets through new rates and levies.
Noosa Regional Council, for example, says that if Airbnb hosts are profiting from visitors enticed by tourism advertising and facilities, they should be subject to the same tourism levy imposed on local accommodation providers.
The council is compiling its own list of short-term holiday providers by monitoring online adverts, and will seek to add additional charges to the identified owner’s next rates bill.
The council is also concerned about the sheer number of residential Noosa properties being used as short-term lets, with mayor Tony Wellington identifying problems including “streets getting parked out” by Airbnb guests and “noise concerns, because often people who rent properties are there to party”.
Across the Tasman, Auckland Council recently voted to extend its existing commercial bed tax to short-stay lets, with those properties booked between 29 and 135 nights year expected to pay 75 percent residential and 25 per cent business rates, plus 25 percent of the industry bed tax rate.
While the New Zealand industry has generally welcomed the move, Australian accom providers fear a new bed tax could increase charges for all operators, rather than level the playing field by only targeting Airbnb-style rentals.
In Sydney, a state-mandated 180-day cap on the number of days residential properties can be rented out, plus new powers for strata corporations to ban Airbnb and a ‘two-strikes’ policy for troublesome hosts and guests, have met with industry accusations of weak legislation pandering to the desires of Airbnb.