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AHA chief slates Airbnb over “concerning” campaign

The head of WA’s Australian Hotels Association has accused Airbnb of inventing a sham community campaign, in an attack described by the short-let giant as “categorically wrong”.

Australian Hotels Association WA chief executive Bradley Woods made the accusation after a state government inquiry received 130 similarly-worded submissions on the same day, many allegedly from addresses overseas.

Woods said the pre-filled submissions to the state parliamentary inquiry suggested Airbnb was using questionable tactics.

“It is even more concerning that a large percentage of these submissions have international addresses, with many cases of multiple submissions from the same addresses in Canada and Texas,” Woods told local media.

[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”15046″ align=”left”] However, Airbnb has refuted the claims, saying the WA postcodes had been incorrectly listed as North American because of a glitch, and arguing it is not unusual for a company to advise on how to word such submissions.

Brent Thomas, Airbnb’s head of public policy for Australia, said: “The AHA WA yet again is resorting to its old playbook of distortion, distraction and deception.

“It’s not surprising given the AHAWA supported an anti-home sharing conference organised by the world’s most powerful hotel lobbies in New York. The explicit purpose of this conference was to coordinate attacks against the everyday people, including West Australians, who rely on home sharing around the world.

“Our community is scared by the AHA WA’s attacks and unfair calls to rob them of their choice to use their homes or holiday how they want.

“The AHA WA’s one and only concern is protecting their big international hotel members and as a result eliminating people’s choice.”

More than 130 pro forma submissions were lodged with the WA government on the same day supporting Airbnb’s position on regulation of the short stay industry.

Almost 50 of them appeared to come from the same addresses in North America, such as Pasadena in the US and Mississauga in Canada – although Airbnb says they are merely misinterpretations of various local WA postcodes. 

The AHA claims the submissions are evidence of an orchestrated campaign dressed up to look like spontaneous comments from the public.

Airbnb and the AHA WA boss have long been at loggerheads over regulation of the short-stay industry, with Woods describing unregulated short lets as a “disease” on the tourism economy and proposing regulation for WA which would be far tougher than that introduced in NSW and Victoria.

Airbnb is the state’s dominant accommodation provider, with more than 12,000 listing in WA, many of them unregistered. While Airbnb says it welcomes fair regulation of the industry in WA, it has been accused by tourism providers in areas such as Margaret River of forcing traditional operators out of business. 

Brent Thomas said: “The Parliamentary Inquiry asked for public input and Airbnb is determined to make sure our community’s voice is heard loud and clear by their elected officials.

“We’re proud to publicly advocate with and on behalf of our local community who rely on home sharing in WA.”

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