Home' Hotel Management : HM AUGUST 2016 Contents Airbnb continues to cause concerns
for the accommodation industry
The debate over the so called "sharing economy" has been hot over the
past several years both domestically and globally. Indeed over the last year
it has been a dominant issue for the accommodation sector and legislators
proving a challenging matter for all concerned including the "sharing
economy" behemoth and advocate, Airbnb.
A major factor in dealing with this emergent variation on the
accommodation sector is the lack of clarity relating to the legitimacy of the
accommodation provided through sites such as Airbnb and the resultant
impact its success has on the industry as a whole. In reacting to this, Airbnb
has powered on seemingly apathetic as to its negative impact on the
industry whilst it enthusiastically markets any providers and placing the onus
of compliance squarely and solely at the foot of their clients -- or "hosts"
as they term them. Simplistically the answer to all this is more e ective
compliance tools for government at all levels.
Recent movements through enquiries in New South Wales and Tasmania
may herald consistent controls whilst allowing flexibility for the "sharing
economy". The Accommodation Association of Australia has been at
forefront of advocating on behalf of the industry seeking a level playing
field, attention to guest safety matters, consistent compliance, enforcement
and better defining the sector as a whole.
The Association has made a consistent call for a level-playing field for
any individual or business providing tourism accommodation. This does
not mean more regulation but rather tighter controls and enforcement on
tourism accommodation promoted through sharing economy platforms
(such as Airbnb). For existing accommodation businesses, restoring a
level-playing field is vital to the economic viability of these businesses. In
the 2014-15 financial year, there were more than 57 million room nights
occupied in Australia, the majority of which was provided in traditional
tourist accommodation designed, operated and regulated in such a manner
as to ensure guest safety and satisfaction to the highest degree possible.
The same statement should be equally true of all tourist accommodation
regardless of sector or source.
A key factor in ensuring this equity however must be consistent definitions
and application for the industry. At present, di erent local governments
across Australia have di erent definitions of what constitutes tourism
accommodation, while some do not define it at all. In addition, the Australian
Taxation O ce (ATO), has a separate definition as well. In addressing
the "sharing economy" question, it is essential that the industry sees, and
preferably embraces, a consistent definition of tourist accommodation,
proposed at up to 90 days accommodation, which is enforced and enforced
consistently in each state and preferably around the country.
Responsibility for defining tourism accommodation, by and large,
lies with local government authorities across Australia, and although the
Tasmanian and NSW state governments are moving closer to creating one
standard state-wide definition of tourism accommodation, the regime of
local government authorities defining tourism accommodation has, to date,
been unworkable. The next-best thing would be for each state and territory
to follow the lead of Tasmania and NSW and ultimately have all states
develop a definition. If possible, each state and territory should adopt the
same definition. Confusion over what constitutes tourist accommodation,
and therefore what is enforced, together with a lack of action from local
government authorities has meant enforcement is either scant or non-existent.
Therefore, local councils should then enforce rules and the penalties based on
consistent definitions set down by the state governments.
Whilst some may see this as simply advocating for a protectionist regime
for traditional operators of tourism accommodation businesses, the objective
is simply to ensure a clear, consistent and level-playing field. The existing
status quo sees those traditional tourism accommodation businesses in direct
competition with operators who are under a di erent regime with some
operating as unregulated quasi-hotels and avoiding planning laws, building
fire safety requirements, adequate insurance in or access for people with
disability. The end result of the current free for all approach of the sharing
economy is increased safety risks, a discouragement to legitimate operations,
reduced investment and a loss of employment opportunities.
Clarity and definition needed
to face the sharing economy
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