Hospitality industry wants Airbnb rules

Sarah IsonBusselton Dunsborough Times

Research shows Airbnb accommodation is more “professionalised” in the Margaret River- Busselton area than anywhere else in WA, prompting calls from traditional operators for a legislative overhaul to ensure hosts are not circumventing traditional checks and balances.

The research was presented in Busselton last week by Curtin University Associate Professor Christof Pforr and senior research fellow Dr Michael Volgger, who told the Times 75 per cent of South West listings offered entire homes, compared to 60 per cent in Perth.

While less than 20 per cent of WA Airbnb hosts offered multiple listings, this figure jumped to 30 per cent in the Margaret River region, leading researchers to conclude the service was straying from its informal roots.

The findings sparked some concern among traditional operators, who didn’t mind increased competition but believed hosts should adhere to the same rules and regulations as others.

Siesta Park manager Jane Tickle said the new trends were disrespectful to traditional providers who were “always making sure to do the right thing”.

“Airbnb used to be just a bed for $80 in a local’s house, and now the whole thing is being blurred,” she said.

Quality Inn Margaret River chief executive Justin Hickman said “professionalisation” should be an all-or-nothing deal.

“Turning a property into a business means paying business rates, insurance, ensuring fire regulations are up to check, locks are on all the doors, electricity is up to commercial standards — that’s what ‘professionalising’ means,” he said.

The report recognised the Margaret River region as one of WA’s top “hotspots” for Airbnb users, who were found to have an “above-average tendency” to visit wine regions in particular.

Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association interim chief executive Steve Harrison said there was agreement among members on the need for “a level playing field for all accommodation providers, including those using the Airbnb platform”.

Mr Harrison said the key to managing Airbnb’s evolution was effective monitoring and balancing interests.

“MRBTA believes it is important that all Government policymakers and local businesses continue to monitor the impact of Airbnb and find the right balance between regulation and fostering evolution and development,” he said.

Forte Cape View Resort manager Aiden Midgley echoed Mrs Tickle’s and Mr Hickman’s concerns, but said the platform could be a tool to be harnessed.

“We like the model of Airbnb more than other platforms, The point of difference is the transparency of commission charged for guests,” he said.

“Plus, the resort and traditional-style accommodation really wouldn’t cope with the influx of people in the busiest seasons, and we need private accommodation services like this one,” he said.

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