“Pouring petrol on a fire”: Airbnb says curbs will hit jobs and income in WA

Airbnb has come out swinging against an Australian Hotels Association proposal to curb short lets in Western Australia.

The bookings giant’s head of public policy, Brent Thomas, says the AHA’s plan to regulate the short-stay sector would have “devastating consequences for the local community and small businesses”.

The criticism comes as the plan’s architect, AHA’s WA chief Bradley Woods, faces censure over comments he made at a recent AHA awards gala berating the parliamentary opposition’s approach to tourism in the state.  

Woods provoked the ire of the state Liberal party after accusing members of talking down the state’s tourism industry. Now Airbnb has accused Woods’ organisation of exacerbating tourism woes in WA through its proposed short stay regulations.

Brent Thomas said: “The Australian Hotels Association WA wants to ban holiday homes, ban holidays less than two weeks long, and ban almost all home sharing in Western Australia outright. 

“At a time when WA’s tourism is the worst performing state in the country, it is the policy equivalent of pouring petrol on a fire.

“Our modelling shows their policy would have devastating consequences for the local community and small businesses.

“Our community would be cut by more than a third and local hosts – mums and dads, seniors – will lose more than $25 million in income.

“Under their extreme plan approximately 95 percent of trips on Airbnb in Western Australia would be banned.

“It would cost local tourism more than half a million guest arrivals and more than $111.3 million a year in Airbnb guest spending.”

The WA government announced an enquiry into the unregulated short-let industry last month following pressure from traditional accommodation providers, who argue Airbnb is damaging their businesses and operating free of the expenses and restrictions faced by registered businesses.

Mr Woods proposes limiting properties allowed to be listed on sharing platforms to a host’s primary residence and banning the listing of entire properties for stays of fewer than 14 days – a tougher approach than any legislation currently in place in NSW and Victoria.

Thomas argues the proposals would make it more expensive and difficult for travellers to visit Western Australia and has urged Parliament “to back voters – not vested interests – and immediately rule out such an unfair and damaging plan”.

He says internal modelling shows the AHA plan would result in a 30 drop in Airbnb listings (3,500 listings), 33 percent cut to nights booked (239,000 nights) and a 36 percent cut to host income (equating to $25.6 million in lost income for local hosts).

And he points to a recent Deloitte’s audit which found Airbnb contributes more than $100 million to the West Australian economy and supports some 780 local jobs, with the average Airbnb guest spending more than $213 per day in Western Australia.

According to Thomas, The AHAWA’s minimum 14-night stay policy would rule out the vast majority of WA bookings made through Airbnb, reducing them from 184,000 to 9,200.

“We believe this would roughly cost WA more than 95 percent or 522,595 guest arrivals. A loss of 522,595 guest arrivals would mean a loss of $111.3 million in guest expenditure,” he said.

Traditional operators struggling in the face of a slow tourism market and increased competition from the short-platform have described Airbnb as a “corporate bully”, while Mr Woods has talked about the “disease” of unregulated short stays across WA.


Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson is the editor of Accomnews. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions: [email protected]

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  1. Would Mr. Thomas of AirBnB have any objection to those 239,000 nights he has quoted as “otherwise lost” to WA going instead to licensed and regulated accommodation facilities in those same destinations?

    While Mr. Woods may have made his concerns felt in an industry occasion about how little thought might yet have gone into protecting those SMEs who have cooperated with the regulatory environment in place and those required to comply with qualified standards, in the face of this new competition that has been widely encouraged by AirBnB and its own like competitors around the world, this exchange might be best heard if both sides faced each other and those responsible for monitoring the licensed accommodation industry were better and more regularly informed
    Grandstanding with competing press releases wont solve the problem as it has been described but possibly lead to unsatisfactory and irregular legislation that will please neither side in this debate. Simultaneously, whether the change in licensed accommodation take up described is solely caused by the use by travellers of unlicensed accomodation (much like the industry previously acknowledged as “VFR”,) is yet to be adequately researched as well.

    1. Well said Kevin, and let’s face it if Airbnb had entered the market like a good corporate citizen and addressed the current conflicting issues instead of coming into the fray like technological interlopers, and thinking they can bypass the regulatory and compliance protocols then perhaps the outcome would be different. The only curb I see is a strong down turn in Airbnb’s turnover if they are blocked by the justified fight of the AHA WA . If the regulatory bodies and government, who by the way didn’t see the Airbnb juggernaut landing due to possible ignorance or a how nice attitude (wow technology must be good), received good advice and a better understanding of the ramification for their lack of decision making and ignorance re the impact, then the right balance would have been implemented and that level playing field would have created a win win scenario for all concerned. The effort must continue and all states and hotel associations should come together and use their influence but with one voice. Also if Airbnb is not regulated or made compliant this will set a precedent for current legal operators to bend the rules and not comply as they see fit…….Then laissez faire rules but in hindsight that mob doesn’t deserve a second chance given their bullishness and creating a contentious precedent……….NHI

  2. I thought that when I complied with local council laws and requirements and paid there fees and contributions including state road.
    That I was actually protecting my business, perhaps I should have set up shop as a banker next door to the big four or maybe sold tobacco on the street would this situation have been allowed if it was anything else or does the little law abiding accommodation business obviously not important enough or have the same rights as other businesses.
    With so many small accommodation businesses folding it is definitely having a detrimental effect.
    It is hard to compete with people that have had and have no costs and we cannot compete with cheaper rooms.
    Surely some of these people could apply as a registered bnb to put us on the same level playing field.
    Loss of rental homes has anyone done a report on what this brings into a local economy.

    1. Thank you Linda, you echo what I have been saying for a long time now. It’s truely tough when there have been 5-6 accommodation operators in a small town and now there are 60. The playing field is far from level in Tasmania.

  3. I suspect that many AirBnB property owners in our region are absentee real state investors rather than tourism operators. Perhaps aided by tax concessions sa neg gearing? Certainly the cost of o/n stay in some of these properties appears to be unprofitable. Genuine tourism operators actually need to make a profit, so it is hard to compete.

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