Airbnb hits region’s motel market

Sarah IsonBusselton Dunsborough Times

Motel-style accommodation has suffered most during this year’s peak tourism season, with operators reporting a downturn led by competition from Airbnb.

Airbnb’s interference with the Capes market was a hot topic late last year, with research from Curtin University showing the platform’s disruption was highest in the Margaret River region.

The news triggered calls for tighter controls, with local hoteliers wanting Airbnb operators to contribute more to the region’s marketing economy.

The growth of Airbnb was top among the reasons operators say their industry has been in continued decline since the global financial crisis.

In-House Holidays office manager Dani Skane said the past summer was “marginally busier” than 2016-17 but fewer people had booked accommodation over the past decade. “We’re still always a sell-out over new year but the season dies off more quickly and there’s just a hell of a lot more accommodation, particularly Airbnb,” Ms Skane said.

Edge of the Forest owner Allan Wilkes said business was slightly down from last year and noted motel providers were now competing directly against Airbnb.

But the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River told the Times similar platforms had been around for many years and there was no evidence to “confirm the view that Airbnb has had a direct impact on operators of more conventional tourism businesses”.

Resort and family-style accommodation didn’t feel the same sting, with Amalfi reporting its resort trade was “on par” with previous years and bookings continued strongly beyond the end of the school holidays.

Mandalay and Aqua Resort also noticed the busy season was longer, reporting an “earlier start” to the peak and an “increase of occupancy”.

Margaret’s Forest owner and manager Astrid Horak said the downturn was more than rivalry from Airbnb.

Despite a reported quietening of local business, major tourist attractions like the Busselton Jetty experienced a spike of 21 per cent in visitation, a trend shared by Forest Adventures and Jet Adventures.

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