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.