Airbnb impact: Giving a voice to residents of one of Australia’s top tourist destinations

Published 29 October 2018
Royalty free image kitchen Byron Shire is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Australia

Researchers from Southern Cross University want to give Byron Shire residents a voice when it comes to the future of short-term holiday letting (STHL) in the area.

Byron Shire is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Australia with more than two million visitors each year. Visitors outnumber locals by a ratio of 70 to one.

According to the Australian Coastal Councils Association it is also one of Australia’s least affordable regional rental-housing markets with 17.6 per cent of properties in the Byron Shire listed as short-term holiday letting. The majority of these STHL are listed on online rental platforms, notably Airbnb – the largest, fastest-growing online platform.

School of Business and Tourism researcher Dr Sabine Muschter said with the impact of the sector being the subject of ongoing debate, it was important that policy makers for affordable housing and destination marketing have comprehensive, reliable and evidence-based information on their own locations.

Byron Shire Council is expected to make a formal submission to the Department of Planning and Environment in a few weeks about whether to introduce a STHL cap in the near future. This follows The Fair-Trading Amendment (Short-term rental accommodation) Bill 2018 recently passed by the NSW Government. The Bill allows hosts in NSW to rent out their accommodation for up to 365 days per year (exception apply for Greater Sydney), but provides an opportunity for Councils to decrease the 365-day limit to no less than 180-days per year.

Dr Muschter – also a Byron Bay resident - said through a new research project at Southern Cross University they were trying to help ensure that local residents have a say when it comes to decision making at local and state levels of government.

She said a survey released on October 26, would allow residents to contribute their views on possible options for STHL in the Shire. The survey will also capture participating Byron Shire residents’ perceptions on positive and negative impacts of Airbnb within the Byron Shire.

The current research project follows an initial scoping study, which last year investigated peer-reviewed studies on implications for Airbnb on local communities.

Before the survey was developed, 22 locals were interviewed, including councillors, Airbnb hosts, accommodation providers and ‘victims’ of holiday lettings.

“Our initial interviews showed that most residents perceived both positive and negative impacts on the community through the recent increase in Airbnb lettings within the Byron Shire”, Dr Muschter said.

“Most people weren’t against it. They simply wanted more regulation to make it fair play for everyone.

“It would be nice to nail the topic for the area and provide some in-depth research into the impact Airbnb has. This can then inform strategies, planning, policies and regulation that can guide future management.”

The University survey results will be presented to the Council before it makes its formal submission to the NSW Government.

The Airbnb project is led by Dr Deborah Che with Dr Muschter, Dr Rod Caldicott and Dr Tania von der Heidt.

You can take part in the survey here: https://scuau.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bIOJVj8oZWjfDyB 

Media contact: scumedia@scu.edu.au 0417288794