Short-stay rentals draw the short straw

The Australian, February 14, 2019

One of the world’s biggest holiday rental platforms has criticised the Australian government and tourism industry for being out of date and not making decisions in the interests of holidaymakers.

HomeAway, the company ­behind accommodation website Stayz, says not one of the 72 men and women on the nation’s eight government-appointed tourism boards represents short-term rental accommodation. This is despite short-term rentals making more than $1 billion a year for Australian holiday home owners in recent years and ­accounting for up to 16 per cent of nights booked.

A quarter of Australia’s tourism board members have come directly from the hotel industry or have backgrounds there.

HomeAway director of corporate affairs Eacham Curry said Australia’s tourism boards were missing out on valuable information and input.

“We’ve got this unique snapshot that covers end-to-end booking, travel arrangements, the whole lot, which is very rare,” Mr Curry said. “That’s a unique piece of information. If the government and others are serious about getting a more complete snapshot, you’ve got to have our voice represented.”

Mr Curry said the hotel industry had been extremely critical of short-term accommodation websites such as Airbnb, but failed to see that both could work together.

“There are legitimate concerns the Australian Hotels Association have about the level of regulation they face, and they’ve used it to say there should be greater regulation,” Mr Curry said.

“The solution is to let us work with you to lessen the red tape ­traditional accommodation has. It’s not entirely surprising.

“We’re still a relatively new industry. But we’re at the point now where to not have our voice included is a bit self-defeating.”

Alex McLean, who has an ­investment property on Stayz in Orange, central western NSW, said it would be reasonable for short-term rental sites to have a say in the industry. “We don’t compete with the hotels here. We try and offer something else,” she said. “It’s definitely a good idea. We’re lucky, Orange has heaps of short-term holiday rentals and the tourism group here are pretty pro-short-term rentals. Everything is booked out.”

The comments follow a clash between Airbnb and AHA Western Australia chief Bradley Woods, who was criticised for ­attending a “Reformbnb” conference in New York in November.

The conference, dubbed the world’s first ant-Airbnb gathering, was a “global gathering of big international hotel lobbyists”, said Airbnb’s Brent Thomas, who wants Mr Woods to be removed from Tourism Australia’s board.

Of the 72 members of eight government-appointed boards — Tourism Australia, Tourism WA, Tourism NT, Tourism and Events QLD, Destination NSW, Visit Victoria, SA Tourism Commission and Tourism Tasmania — there were no members of short-term rental accommodation platforms or online travel agencies.

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