Visiting chiefs urged to rein in Airbnb

WA’s most vociferous campaigners for short-stay curbs lobbied inquiry officials on a three-day visit to Margaret River last week.

Members of the state government-appointed parliamentary inquiry committee agreed to visit the wine region after inquiry chair Jessica Shaw acknowledged: “We appreciate that there does seem to be a hot spot down there.

“We want to hear a variety of views and it’s important the committee ensures the people of the South West are given a voice and are heard in this process.”

Traditional accommodation providers told the group the region’s growth is at risk of instability if the local short-stay sector is not regulated.

Tensions are simmering over WA’s lack of action in regulating an explosion of Airbnbs in Margaret River, which local accommodation owners say is threatening their livelihoods as they struggle to compete with holiday homes not governed by industry taxes and regulations.  

There are currently more than 1,000 Airbnb listings for the region, around 90 percent of them whole home rentals.

Australian Hotels Associations WA chief executive Bradley Woods has labelled the state’s unregulated short stays  a “disease” on the industry, while Debbie Noonan of the Registered Accommodation Providers of the Margaret River Region previously described Airbnb as a “corporate bully”.

Airbnb says it wants fair industry-wide regulation but objects to Mr Wood’s suggestions, including a proposal to ban the listing of entire properties on short-stay platforms for visits of fewer than 14 days.

Resort manager Rick Jones was among dozens of traditional accommodation providers who urged inquiry members to regulate the short-stay sector and help “level the playing field”.

“Of course you can give a cheaper rate if you don’t have to pay commercial rates,” he told the ABC.

“But if you’re running a full house and you’re listing it as short-term accommodation, then that’s a small business and that shouldn’t be any different than any other small business.

“So if we’re paying commercial rates for either sewerage, insurance, to the shire, for water, electricity, then it’s not an unreasonable request for everybody to do that.”

Airbnb operators in the region argue charging commercial rates or imposing caps on visitor nights would render numerous listings unviable, damaging the region’s tourism. 

And the head of the local tourism association says platforms like Airbnb open the region to new international markets.

“Singapore is a very important market for our region and even though the platform is illegal in Singapore, we know that Singaporeans are the most likely to use it,” Sharna Kearney, joint chief executive of the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association, told the ABC.

“If we don’t, as a region, have product on those websites, then we’re going to quickly become uncompetitive as a tourism destination because that’s how people book their travel these days.”

She told the national broadcaster that, while rules should be uniform for everyone, the regulation of online booking platforms should not stifle their reach and simplicity.

The City of Busselton was the organisation responsible for requested that the committee visit the Capes region, planning and development services director Paul Needham telling the Times: “The experiences and issues here are different to those in Perth, and it is important that the committee get a good understanding of those differences.

Busselton City Mayor Grant Henley said: “We’re pleased that they’ve decided to have a regional briefing in the area. This is quite obviously the most heavily impacted area in the state.”

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Nick Israel
Nick Israel
5 years ago

The answer is straight forward, regulate Airbnb and all interlopers in line with existing hotel/motel operators then all players are on the same level playing field and the end users are protected and kept safe from unscrupulous operators…..NHI

Peta Morrison
Peta Morrison
5 years ago

WA groups continue to lobby parliamentary inquiry members and ramp up press re the Short Term Rental Accommodation industry (STRA). Unfortunately the arguments offered are very one sided opinions, often based on opposition to competition, with little concern for the demand of guests or recognition of benefits this industry brings into local communities.

While the WA families that own short stay homes, have been blamed for challenges faced by traditional accommodation providers, short stay is just one part of this highly competitive, growing market. Just as caravan parks have evolved to become holiday parks, the overseas hotel groups that dominate the Australian accommodation market through their hotel and serviced apartment chains are making massive investments in new developments, refurbishment, technology and marketing.

While the upsurge in popularity of residential short stay accommodation has created waves in the accommodation sector, the issues of bad guest behaviour and irresponsible owners relate to just a small fraction of the millions of visitor nights now provided by hosts of STRA properties.

ASTRA looks to government for an equitable approach that recognises the changing nature of the accommodation market, the demand for varying types/levels/affordability of accommodation options, the growing level of competition within the industry and the important contribution made to the economy and local areas by WA’s thousands of local STRA owners.

In fact it is the local hospitality that ASTRA members enjoy providing for their guests, that is integral in creating an authentic destination experience that is a key driver for our own brand of West Australian tourism.

Peta Morrison
Director Australian Short Term Rental Accommodation (ASTRA) Australia’s peak industry body for STRA

Ian Taylor
5 years ago

WA is not the only destination suffering from unregulated providers using AirbnB, we are family run, NSW based, not a large provider and offer short stays, however we are strictly regulated and have to follow council and State rules for hard wired fire systems and Health laws (4 inspections per year), noise levels, car parking, security, public liability insurance, workers comp. All this comes at a high cost. We have an over supply of AirBnB in our area which keeps rates at an all time low, and of course we are a registered business with more associated company regulation costs.

Real Estate companies have made things worse by telling prospective buyers they can run airBnB for extra cash. flying under the radar of the taxman.

We understand that AirBnB will be around for the foreseeable, our business has been an operating Guesthouse for over 100yrs, All we ask is a level playing field, so everyone plays by the same rules, Without some regulation companies like us will be forced to close.

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