Hotels

TAA slams door on Airbnb

Hannah Edensor

It turns out not everyone is a fan of home-sharing company Airbnb.

Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) has called on governments at all levels to act against non-compliant accommodation providers.

The claims suggest those participating in businesses such as Airbnb are putting guests’ safety at risk, threatening jobs and contributing nothing to the Australian economy.

TAA has made submissions to Federal and State Governments to introduce legislation to require the registration of rooms that are let on a commercial short term basis by individuals.

The alleged risks come with the rise of easily-accessible online distribution channels such as Airbnb, which is reported to already have over 35,000 rooms in Australia for rental, more than Australia’s largest hotel group Accor, which owns 26,000 rooms.

TAA is calling for Federal, State, Territory and Local governments to agree on a national system requiring the registration of premises that are used for commercial short stay accommodation so that they meet a range of health, safety, tax and regulatory requirements.

TAA’s chair and former Federal Tourism Minister, Martin Ferguson, said there was an urgent need for governments to address the issues to ensure that guests and legitimate operators were protected.

“We are not against the ‘sharing’ economy, but we are opposed to the ‘taking’ economy, where unregulated commercial short-term accommodation providers take lots of money without meeting their obligations to guests, the community and the wider economy,” Ferguson said.

“TAA has no issue with new entrants who meet their regulatory requirements, but we do not believe that non-compliant accommodation providers should be allowed to ignore the rules set down to protect travellers and legitimate operators.

“If there is rampant growth of illegal short-stay commercial accommodation, it will significantly reduce the likelihood of investment in tourist accommodation, which has the potential to be one of the most sustainable generators of future employment in Australia.

“While city authorities overseas are beginning to crackdown on non-compliant accommodation, Australian councils have found it difficult to act on breaches, despite the operators clearly contravening building code and development consents.

“This can potentially threaten the validity of insurance policies for both the property owner and – in the case of an apartment block – all unit owners in the building.

TAA says that regulations should be applied proportionally, with resident landlords not to be subjected to the same regulations as non-resident commercial landlords of privately rented properties, or houses in multiple occupation.

“The letting out of individual rooms by non-resident commercial landlords needs to be separately classified to permit application of any relevant agreed regulation, to differentiate from commercial accommodation,” Ferguson added.

“For example it could be classified as ‘special residential’, with a distinct and separate category for ‘short stay’ commercial accommodation.

“Distribution companies listing share accommodation on their sites will be required to ensure that all rooms listed are registered, indicating that they are compliant with Australian laws and have in place consumer protections.

“Ultimately the accommodation industry is seeking to provide certainty for those who invest in legitimate accommodation in Australia, protect jobs and ensure a high-level traveller experience that generates repeat visitation.”

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