Tourism Accommodation Australia is warning of the dangers to both the overall hotel industry and – potentially – to guests of Governments allowing unregulated and unlicensed short-term accommodation rentals, like Airbnb.

Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) Acting CEO, Carol Giuseppi, has been circulating the group’s position paper to MPs, highlighting that not only were building codes, licensing and taxation obligations being flouted, but there was considerable risk to guests because of the totally unregulated nature of the service.

“Hoteliers work to make significant investments to provide safe and innovative customer experiences – but being innovative is no justification for ignoring the laws and regulations,” she said.

“The government should not pick winners and losers in the marketplace. Ensuring short-term online rental companies adhere to the same city, state, and federal regulations as hoteliers is absolutely crucial if there is to be a level playing field within the accommodation sector.

“Under the Australian Building code requirements there is a significant investment made by licensed accommodation providers to ensure that they meet the safety and accessibility standards. Most of the Airbnb-style options have very few, if any, public safety measures in place for guests that traditional accommodation has. For example: public liability insurance and meeting fire safety guidelines including evacuation and emergency procedures.

“There is a particular problem in apartment blocks because if an owner offers their apartment for short-term leasing without the necessary licensing, they are breaching their development consents and therefore putting at risk the insurances of all tenants in that building.

“In addition there is no consumer protection for Airbnb customers. Consumer protection measures applied to accommodation hotels cost the hotels millions of dollars. Airbnb customers deserve the same consumer protections and Airbnb should not be allowed a cost advantage over its commercial competitors by not having to provide consumer protections.

“All the evidence suggests that most unlicensed short-term accommodation works on a cash-economy basis, with neither business tax nor GST paid, which means that tourism and the wider economy doesn’t benefit.

“Ultimately mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure that products such as Airbnb are regulated, as unfettered growth could result in a reduction in investment in legitimate accommodation solutions and therefore a loss of jobs in the future.

“So far we are very pleased with the reaction of MPs, but it is important that hoteliers across the country speak to their State and Local Governments to ensure that they see this issue in perspective.

“We are not against new entrants to the accommodation field, but we do insist on a level playing field for the industry.”

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management