Call for Airbnb crackdown to target investors, holiday homes in Western Australia

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Updated

February 13, 2019 17:52:39

WA’s biggest tourism lobby group has called for a crackdown on Airbnb, pushing for a ban on the use of residential properties for tourist accommodation unless someone is living there.

Key points:

  • Short-stay accommodation providers allow people to rent private accommodation
  • Tourism groups say this hurts established operators like hotels
  • Tasmania’s loose approach to Airbnb has put pressure on house prices and rents

The Tourism Council told a parliamentary inquiry into short-stay accommodation that Airbnb and other similar websites were costing the state $300 million, with a $12 million hit in taxes, as it criticised what it labelled an uneven playing field.

Airbnb, along with some other websites, allow people to list part or all of their properties for short-term accommodation.

Tourism Council chief executive Evan Hall called on the State Government to crack down on Airbnb listings that did not serve as somebody’s primary residence, a move that would target people whose investment or holiday properties were put up on the site.

“Hosted” properties, where somebody is living on the premises, would still be allowed under the proposal.

“If someone is not a permanent resident of a property, it should be let to a tenant,” Mr Hall said.

“It is inappropriate to take a residential dwelling and put it on the short-stay market.”

Airbnb ‘hurting’ tourism

Mr Hall said the listing of residential properties on Airbnb had done nothing to boost tourism, claiming it had hurt traditional accommodation providers and cost thousands of jobs because different rules meant properties listed on the site were often available more cheaply.

“That means visitors are spending less money in Western Australia,” he said.

The inquiry also heard from the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania, which warned that state’s liberal approach to Airbnb regulation had sparked a strong backlash from angry residents and put enormous pressure on rent and housing availability.

“We are on the flipside of what happens when you don’t get this beast under control,” chief executive Luke Martin said.

“We’re dealing with the unintended consequences, where so many property owners have acquired houses out of the residential system and put them into visitor accommodation.”

Airbnb, Stayz push back against bans

Airbnb rubbished the Tourism Council’s proposals, saying the answer to concerns was through regulation rather than blanket bans.

“They want to ban all holiday homes, and remove people’s choice about how they use their homes and how they holiday,” Airbnb’s head of public policy Brent Thomas said.

“Make no mistake, less choice will mean higher prices.”

Airbnb, which will front the parliamentary inquiry next week, said guests who stayed in properties listed on the site spent more than $150 million in WA last year.

Stayz, another website which allows people to list their properties for accommodation purposes, said the holiday rental sector had the potential to revive WA’s struggling tourism industry.

“Punitive regulation could see the end of [holiday homes] and curtail the economic uplift associated with the tourism economy,” it said.

“Night caps, punitive rules or other use restrictions will make it hard for mum and dad investors to let out their own holiday homes, to the detriment of the West’s tourism economy.”

Airbnb also used a formal submission to question why WA taxpayers had provided significant money in subsidies to hotel developments.

It pointed to the former Barnett government’s subsidised sale of the Hay Street site now used for the Westin hotel, which was conditional on a large accommodation facility being built on the land.

Deputy Premier Roger Cook said the Government would await the parliamentary committee’s report before making any decisions about future regulations.

“Like all industries, they [the accommodation industry] are challenged by digital disruption,” Mr Cook said.

Topics:

state-parliament,

states-and-territories,

government-and-politics,

travel-and-tourism,

tourism,

perth-6000,

wa

First posted

February 13, 2019 16:55:02



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