Airbnb is urging Tourism Australia to take action against one of its board directors over his sustained public criticism of the short-let platform.
Bradley Woods, the West Australian head of the Australian Hotels Association, has been a vocal advocate for regulation of a sector he has previously described as a “disease” within the local accommodation industry.
According to Airbnb, his attendance at the Reformbnb conference in New York last month, a forum on how to regulate the short-let industry worldwide, raises questions about a potential conflict of interest with his board position at Tourism Australia.
Brent Thomas, Airbnb’s head of public policy for Australia, says Tourism Australia board members have a duty to avoid actual or perceived conflicts, in line with government stipulations and the public service code of conduct.
And he argues Mr Woods’ attendance at an event dubbed the world’s first anti-Airbnb gathering conflicts with his directorship of a government body responsible for attracting overseas visitors.
Thomas told the Australian Financial Review: “The global gathering of big international hotel lobbyists lays bare their real agenda: to eliminate competition and protect their members’ interests.
“This lobby only cares about what is best for big international hotels, not what is best for families, communities and the Australian tourism industry.
“The involvement of the AHAWA in such an anti-home sharing and anti-tourism event raises fresh questions about potential conflicts of interest.”
Mr Woods rejected Airbnb’s comments, saying: “Tourism Australia has clear practices and procedures in place to address conflicts of interest and these are strictly adhered to.
“Having represented the tourism and hospitality industry around Australia for over 25 years, I reject Airbnb’s personal attacks and efforts to degrade my professionalism as completely baseless.”
He is the architect of a five-point plan, currently before a WA parliamentary inquiry into the short-let sector, which proposes limiting properties listed on sharing platforms to a host’s primary residence and banning the listing of whole properties for stays of fewer than 14 days.
The approach is tougher than any currently in place in NSW and Victoria and according to Thomas, would have “devastating consequences for the local community and small businesses”.
“Under their extreme plan approximately 95 percent of trips on Airbnb in Western Australia would be banned,” he said.
“It would cost local tourism more than half a million guest arrivals and more than $111.3 million a year in Airbnb guest spending.”
A spokesperson for Tourism Australia said the organisation had no involvement with Mr Woods’ attendance at the New York conference.
“Tourism Australia has a board charter which addresses conflicts of interest,” she said.
“All board members are required to declare any interests and conflicts are actively managed by the board.”