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Byron Shire tourism businesses divided on Airbnb and other holiday-letting platforms


Sharlene King
6 November 2019

Traditional holiday accommodation providers in Byron Shire say competing with online booking sites, like Airbnb, is not a level playing field.

Top among their concerns is a need for tighter regulations and also meeting the higher insurance and council rates associated with running a legitimate tourism business.

In trying to understand these concerns, and others, Southern Cross University in partnership with Byron Shire Council has developed a survey to understand the perceived impacts of short-term rental accommodation (STRA), and primarily of holiday letting through platforms such as Airbnb, on the Byron Shire’s Approved Accommodation Providers (AAPs).

“The Byron Shire Council is seeking reliable, and evidence-based information on the current experiences of the Shire’s AAPs as a result of the growth of STRAs,” said Dr Sabine Muschter from the School of Business and Tourism (SBaT) at Southern Cross University.

“This research will provide an opportunity for traditional accommodation providers to have their say about the impacts that increasing numbers of STRAs are having on their business operations.”

The project seeks to understand current practice to better support specific and locally-informed development planning and policy-making in light of the NSW Government’s proposed new regulatory framework for STRA.

Click here to complete the survey. Survey closes midnight December 5 2019

NOTE: This survey is for owners or managers of an approved accommodation in the Byron Shire only, not for an Airbnb host or a manager/owner of a short-term rental accommodation without DA approval.

“Operators are telling us there is an unlevel playing field in the accommodation sector,” Dr Muschter said.

“On the one hand, an approved accommodation provider faces a high level of regulation and pays high commercial tax, council rates, and levies. On the other hand, a neighbouring Airbnb is offering a similar bed for tourists but has not been required to comply with any regulations, not even fire and safety, nor do they pay commercial tax or commercial council rates.

“This imbalance is perceived by AAPs as grossly unfair and it creates anger and frustration among the traditional providers in the shire.”

The present study is timely as councils across NSW, including the Byron Shire Council, may soon consider a short-term letting cap of 180 days for non-hosted STRA properties, including non-hosted Airbnb properties. Such a policy amendment is now possible under the whole-of-government framework for STRA in NSW.

The Byron Shire Council, in a submission to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment dated September 11, 2019, stated the provisions in the regulatory framework that allow non-hosted STRA to occur for up to 365 days a year in some cases creates an uneven playing field that is inequitable for established accommodation providers.

This current project aims to bring new knowledge on the impact of STRAs on AAPs. Survey findings will be presented to Byron Shire Council and may inform its regulatory decision-making. This research will also provide benchmarking information to guide future policies around specific location-applicable regulation of STRAs.

A 2018 survey, also conducted by the University’s SBaT team, garnered the views of more than 800 Byron Shire residents about the positive and negative impacts of STRAs. View the results.

The Approved Accommodation Providers (AAP) project is led by Dr Deborah Che from the School of Business and Tourism, with colleagues Dr Sabine Muschter, Dr Rod Caldicott and Dr Tania von der Heidt. Through a partnership with the Byron Shire Council, the project assists to bring academia and local government together to serve wider community interests.

This research project has approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee of Southern Cross University (ECN-18-064).


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