Airbnb has hit back at claims it is damaging the Apple Isle’s housing availability, telling a parliamentary enquiry its hosts are scapegoats for inadequate infrastructure.
The short-stay giant’s Australian head of public policy, Brent Thomas, told a Legislative Council inquiry into short-stay accommodation that Airbnb’s alleged role in the state’s housing shortage was “a myth”.
Of 5,100 Airbnb listings in Tasmania, some 1,200 are in Hobart, Mr Thomas told councillors.
“Massive amounts of people moving in here to Tasmania and not enough housing being built, more university places being opened up and not enough houses being built,” he said.
“I think there’s a supply issue which is overwhelmingly being driven by other macro factors.
“What concerns us is when our hosts are unreasonably scapegoated for a problem that has much, much bigger drivers.”
Airbnb is also being blamed for a drop in confidence among the state’s smaller accommodation providers, despite latest Tourism Research Australia figures showing a record 307,000 international tourists visiting Tasmania in the year ending June 2018.
While visitor numbers were up 21 per cent on the same period in 2017, the latest tourism business confidence survey shows just one in four traditional hosted and self-contained accommodation operators is anticipating a busier summer than last year. That number is 50 percent among the wider tourism community.
The head of the Tasmanian Tourism Council, Luke Martin, told the ABC that operators have highlighted Airbnb as the major contributing factor.
“This sector of the visitor economy has expanded rapidly over the past few years with the growth in Airbnb listings and hundreds of new small accommodation operators entering the market, and it’s telling this sector of the industry has a much softer outlook than the remainder of the tourism industry,” he said.
“This is clearly a red flag, and almost to a tee these operators are all citing the growth in Airbnb as the factor.”
Airbnb has always argued that it is growing the tourism pie rather than stealing a piece of it.
In Tasmania, that pie equated to $552 million spent by international visitors in the year to June, the state outperforming anywhere else in Australia for percentage growth in international visitation.
Overseas visitors are staying in the state for 17 nights on average and the number of visitors from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Japan and France have all increased.
Mr Martin said: “The challenge is for us to make sure that as the industry continues to evolve and change and new disruptions come into the sector, we make sure we keep an even playing field for all stakeholders and make sure that the industries are able to compete equally.”