South West group ‘instrumental’ in short stay accommodation inquiry

A parliamentary inquiry into the regulation of short stay accommodation in Western Australia has been welcomed after the Economics and Industry Standing Committee resolved to investigate the adequacy of current regulator practices surrounding holiday properties.

Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said current frameworks covering hotels, serviced apartments, bed and breakfasts and caravan parks did not adequately address the short term accommodation industry.

“I want to make sure that there is wide consultation and a bipartisan approach to reform in this industry,” Ms Saffioti said. 

Debbie Noonan and the local operators down here in the region have been instrumental in supporting the decision for this committee and inquiry to be undertaken short stay accommodation across the state.

Shadow Tourism Minister Libby Mettam

“This inquiry is an opportunity to have a Committee of the Parliament test ideas with the industry and to report back to the Parliament and then government.

“This process allows the work undertaken to be utilised by the committee and to make sure we have all the right information in front of us.”

Shadow Tourism Minister Libby Mettam welcomed the decision, and said the State Government needed to consider both the interests of accommodation providers and the State’s overall tourism offering. 

“The sector now includes operators ranging from people renting out their spare room to backpackers , to hotel chains and, as a result, the issues are complex,” Ms Mettam said.

“While there are outstanding issues where hotels and resorts are competing with operators without the same sort of compliance burdens, we also don’t want people who are renting out their back room to have prohibitive regulatory standards imposed on them.”

Ms Mettam said platforms like Airbnb were now a “fact of life”, and that local governments were not equipped to develop their own regulations.

She said associations like the Registered Accommodation Providers of the Margaret River Region had been instrumental in the decision to undertake the inquiry.

“We need a fairer, more level playing field, which could mean either expanding the regulatory framework or making it easier for mainstream accommodation providers,” she said. 

"Debbie Noonan and the local operators down here in the region have been instrumental in supporting the decision for this committee and inquiry to be undertaken short stay accommodation across the state.

"I would expect that they will be a key part of the inquiry going forward.

It has become abundantly clear that ‘sharing’ platforms are simply not what they purport to be and are instead platforms that help some providers bypass the rules...

Australian Hotels Association CEO, Bradley Woods

"Obviously it is important their concerns are heard, given they have invested directly into the tourism industry in good faith and within the state’s regulatory framework.

"Some regional areas have relied quite heavily on Airbnb, particularly in seasonal areas where there is a fluctuation in holiday population because of events. 

“Our accommodation sector has matured to the point where this region is able to meet the fluctuating demands through registered short stay accommodation providers, hotels and resorts."

Ms Mettam said leaving the issue to under resourced local governments would result in inconsistent policies across regions.

“A State-wide policy needs to, at a minimum, ensure appropriate health and safety and noise control measures,” she said.

Member for Warren Blackwood Terry Redman also gave his support to the plan, saying he had been approached by a number of tourism operators concerned over the “unequal playing field”.

“I am very pleased the committee sanctioned this formal inquiry that will give all interested parties an opportunity to raise issues and contribute towards an updated regulatory framework,” said Mr Redman.

“The inquiry is an important step in protecting our tourism industry, providing choice of accommodation, and ensuring consumer safety and community amenity.

Mr Redman said although the terms of reference were still being finalised, he expected the inquiry to investigate the status of the industry, review regulatory and taxation frameworks, and examine approaches taken by other Australian and international governments.

“I hope all those with an interest in the short-stay accommodation sector will take the opportunity to contact the Economics and Industry Standing Committee and ensure their views are considered as part of this inquiry,” he said.

If Western Australia is to get out of its tourism doldrums, it must be bold and embrace change. Doing the same things with the same participants will only deliver the same bad results.

Airbnb Head of Public Policy, Brent Thomas

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) released a statement on Thursday supporting the move.

“There is a need to deliver reforms that will ensure fairness and balance for both legitimate accommodation providers as well as those who want to engage in genuine hosted, shared accommodation,” AHA chief executive Bradley Woods said.

“The AHA is hopeful the committee can deliver bipartisan recommendations that protect the state’s hotel industry and the tens of thousands of Western Australians who rely on the sector for their jobs.”

Short stay accommodation platform Airbnb said they were encouraging other accommodation providers to voice their concerns.

“The Airbnb community is calling for a fair, forward-looking and statewide rules for home sharing in Western Australia,” said Airbnb Head of Public Policy, Brent Thomas. 

“As part of our campaign, we are sending targeted emails to our community in WA encouraging them to make their views heard,” he said. 

“We believe Airbnb is a bright spot in WA tourism and can help further grow and future-proof the local economy. 

“If Western Australia is to get out of its tourism doldrums, it must be bold and embrace change. 

“Doing the same things with the same participants will only deliver the same bad results. 

“The very definition of throwing good money after bad is giving even more taxpayer money to big international hotels based in Perth.

“We are calling for the WA Government to introduce fair, forward-looking and statewide rules for home sharing - just like NSW, SA and Tasmania have done.”

The AHA’S Bradley Woods said the inequity between the regulated and unregulated sectors needed urgent attention.

“It has become abundantly clear that ‘sharing’ platforms are simply not what they purport to be and are instead platforms that help some providers bypass the rules and regulations that hotels and B&B’s are expected to abide by,” Mr Woods said.

“The AHA supports genuine shared, hosted accommodation however some online platforms moved away from this business model long ago and now compete directly with hotels.

“The numbers speak for themselves with 61 per cent  of listings for entire homes or apartments, mimicking hotel accommodation yet list properties that do not have to comply with the same regulations as regulated accommodation providers.

“There are simply too many Western Australians who rely on the accommodation sector for their ongoing employment to allow this regulatory inequity to continue.”

This story South West group ‘instrumental’ in short stay accommodation inquiry first appeared on Augusta-Margaret River Mail.