AIRBNB IN HOT SEAT AS HOTEL INDUSTRY FIGHTS BACK

In Accommodation by Clyde Mooney

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AirBnB has accused the hotel industry of protecting its “big profits” as accusations the gig-economy multi-national is bypassing the rules prompt a government enquiry.

A war of words has been brewing between outspoken hotel industry advocate Brad Woods, CEO of the AHA WA, and the internet giant AirBnB, estimated to be worth $38bn.

AirBnB rose to unprecedented success by linking travellers looking for cheap accommodation with people happy to rent out their spare room or house for the weekend.

Its staggering growth curve has come to include an increasing number of property owners renting entire assets, some even specifically bought for this purpose.

Hotel associations around the world have called for greater regulation on the so-called ‘gig’ economy of short-stay accommodation, arguing that the lessors are too often commercial property owners effectively bypassing the licensing, taxation and regulatory requirements imposed on traditional accommodation providers and legitimate businesses.

The AHA WA reports 61 per cent of listings on AirBnB as entire homes or apartments, mimicking traditional hotels, but without the rules or insurances.

Woods says these unregistered businesses are threatening employment and the viability of real accommodation providers that play by the rules, and believes the inequity needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“It has become abundantly clear that ‘sharing’ platforms are simply not what they purport to be and are instead platforms that help some providers bypass the rules and regulations that hotels and B&Bs are expected to abide by.

“In the absence of any meaningful regulation, online short stay accommodation platforms that list unregistered properties are not just disrupting, but diseasing the hotel industry,” says Woods.

Last week the West Australian government announced State Parliament will investigate the short stay accommodation industry, with Minister for Planning, Rita Saffioti MLA, referring the issue to the Economics and Industry Standing Committee.

This week Airbnb’s Australian head of public policy Brent Thomas told WA Today the AHA WA only cares about its “members’ big profits”, branding the situation “protectionism for the big international hotels”.

“Their plan to ban holiday homes and almost all home sharing in WA is anti-tourism and pro-big-hotels.”

Yesterday Thomas spoke on ABC Regional Drive with Barry Nicholls, sidestepping questions on how much tax the company pays in Australia, with its annual turnover now believed to have surpassed $1bn.

“Our hosts pay their taxes and in fact Barry, we want our community to pay even more taxes,” offered Thomas.

Woods was sure to clarify the Association’s position on holiday homes.

“Genuine home sharing is ok and supported by the AHA – the mimicking of hotels is not.”

The AHA is proposing a five-point plan that seeks to balance the benefit to tourism of genuine home-sharing, while protecting the hotel industry and its workforce.

  1. Only a host’s primary residence may be listed for sharing
  2. Listing of entire properties for stays under 14 days prohibited
  3. Harmonise fire, safety, building code and insurance requirements with hotel industry
  4. Home sharing properties must be registered, to enable compliance monitoring
  5. Registration fee payable, to fund administration and compliance monitoring