Tourism in the air: Reaching a critical point with Airbnb
A MISINFORMED social media post was the catalyst for discussion this week, showing we're reaching a critical point in the battle for and against short-term holiday letting platforms like Airbnb.
Panic was incited by a Facebook post this week warning residents that Coffs Harbour City Council was shutting down Airbnb rentals and a meeting was being held to discuss the plan.
At the meeting, however, the council's section leader Industry and Destination Development, Stephen Saunders, was quick to end the rumour.
"There has been a lot of activity on social media and the comments are incorrect. Someone has put two and two together and has got 66. Council does not have any active motions happening around the issue," he said.
There was indeed a meeting held on Monday, a quarterly event held by the Destination Coffs Coast Committee. Industry members gathered at Aanuka Beach Resort to discuss the future of local tourism in the face of emerging short-term holiday rentals, in particular Airbnb.
A decision is expected to soon be made by the NSW Government on what regulatory approach will be enforced on the likes of Airbnb and Stayz.
"From a state point of view, the government is still considering what they're going to do in terms of short-term holiday letting. This meeting is to help people in the tourism industry be aware of the trends and what's happening," Mr Saunders said.
"It's an important issue but it's also a vexed issue, many local governments up and down the coast are trying to do something about it. I can't foreshadow what the council here want to do but at the moment there's no specific push."
Coffs Harbour City Council's zoning laws and Local Environmental Plan are used to regulate Airbnb rentals. A breach of these, such as excess noise, can result in the council taking action.
"There was commentary on social media about council shutting down Airbnbs and I can confirm there is no initiative to do that, however, council does have to respond if they receive complaints from members of the public and needs to make sure people comply with zoning and other regulations.
"I think perhaps it's obviously an indication of how important this is to many people."
As of 2018, there are a total of 644 active Airbnb rentals, which has more than doubled in two years. In the past month, the average daily rate for a rental was $170, and the revenue was $2000.
Gael Drum, who owns two properties currently listed on Airbnb, said it provides a service for tourists which they cannot find at local hotels and resorts. "I wanted to create the accommodation experience I found very difficult out there in the market place. I wanted to give guests an easy check in, with everything up-to-date, clean, on trend, with a pantry that's stocked.
"We put a lot of money back into the community while providing a great service. We're stocking our cupboard with local produce and buying furniture from local stores. I believe there is enough room for everybody in the industry."
Some industry members, including Sue and Fritz Dimmlich from CasaBelle in Bellingen, were concerned Airbnb was creating an unfair playing field. "We've had our guest house for 22 years so we're interested to see what happens with Airbnb. My concerns are mainly from a legislative point of view that it's not really a fair playing ground at the moment, we have to pay fees Airbnb hosts do not and have a lot more regulations to abide by."