Airbnb has today outlined its vision for fair and sensible short term rental accommodation laws in Western Australia, after the state government announced a proposal that would make the state the most restrictive in the nation, severely limiting choice and affordability for guests.
These incredibly restrictive rules are being considered at an extremely competitive time, when every destination in Australia is vying for returning tourism dollars and a bigger slice of the tourism pie in a once-in-a-generation travel comeback.
If introduced, such rules will place West Australian Hosts on a vastly unequal footing, and will ultimately hurt guests, local businesses and communities by reducing choice, availability, and affordability of accommodation, especially in regional areas with almost 80 percent of Airbnb listings outside of Perth.
The proposed rules ignore the myriad of reasons that West Australian guests use short-term rentals when away from home, including to access medical treatment, education, work, and to attend major events – not least the range of affordable, family-friendly options.
WA loves Airbnb, and over the past summer holidays, listings across the state were searched over 2.1 millions times, eclipsing pre-pandemic levels. With almost 700,000 guests staying at an Airbnb listing across the state during the past year, the regulations are not only ill-conceived, but out of step with how West Australians are choosing to travel.
In two separate polls commissioned by Airbnb in November and December of 2021, Western Australians emphasised their love of travel and Airbnb. The first revealed that almost 80 per cent of survey respondents said short-term rentals made it easier to travel within WA, with 90 per cent saying it helps make their holidays more affordable. The second poll found that a majority (62 per cent) are supportive of short-term rentals in their community.
Susan Wheeldon, Country Manager for Airbnb in Australia and New Zealand. said:
“Neither Airbnb nor our Host community is opposed to short-term rentals being regulated. We welcome rules that are fair, sensible and strike a balance so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of tourism, and are sympathetic to the changing ways people are living and working given the rise of flexible and hybrid work arrangements.
“Communities right across Western Australia risk being left behind as both locals and interstate travellers search for ways to make their family budgets stretch further, seeking out places with more choice and affordability.
“Western Australia risks losing local travellers to other states with less restrictive rules and a more diverse and affordable range of accommodation. When domestic and international travel can return to WA, it’s important the state is competitive and able to make the most of the economic benefits of tourism, while also ensuring locals still have a broad range of affordable accommodation options.
“These proposals will make Western Australians who share their homes worse off, make family holidays more expensive, and cost jobs. That’s why we’re proposing sensible, balanced rules that allow everyone in WA to share in the benefits of tourism.”
What local Western Australian Hosts, as well as members of the Airbnb guest community, are advocating for:
- A statewide framework (instead of 139 councils with differing rules) that would ensure fair, clear and consistent outcomes for Hosts, guests and the broader WA community.
- This would guarantee a consistent approach to home sharing across the state and achieve greater certainty for Hosts and guests.
- A statewide system for unhosted accommodation with certain opt-in provisions to address local needs, where appropriate.
- The proposed 60 day cap would severely limit opportunities for Western Australians to make extra income or subsidise their own travel.
- Instead, we propose a statewide system in which unhosted accommodation can operate for 365 days a year without development approval, and an ‘opt-in’ days cap for local councils to address local needs (provided the caps cannot be reduced below 180 days).
- In principle support for a statewide registration scheme for short-term rentals.
- We believe that registration should be a streamlined system for Hosts that participate in the home sharing industry that isn’t burdensome or costly.
- An easy, accessible, online, and affordable scheme managed centrally by the state government, implemented alongside a code of conduct and treats homes sharers who list on and offline the same.
- This will enable the Government to paint a clear picture of home sharing across the state and understand the contribution of our industry to the visitor economy.
- A mandatory, statewide and industry-wide code of conduct applicable to guests, Hosts and premises to manage complaints and disruptive behaviour that may occur in the community.
- The Government’s failure to consult on a mandatory statewide code of conduct is a missed opportunity. A fair and enforceable code for guests, Hosts and premises would establish clear expectations for community standards, and establish a transparent framework for reporting, managing and monitoring complaints.
- We welcome the exemption for hosted accommodation
- We support the right of Hosts to share the underutilised spaces in their homes, whether in a house, unit, granny flat or townhouse.
- Hosted accommodation is a low-impact form of accommodation since the Host resides on site and is available to efficiently deal with issues.
Airbnb finds support from other tourism industry bodies
The tourism industry recognises the important contribution of short-term rentals to the sector and the choices this accommodation offers for tourists and other visitors, particularly in regional areas where less options are available. As such, Government policy that provides consistency is critical. Consistency will provide flexibility for home owners, increase choice for visitors and also unlock new opportunities to breathe more life in to the West Australian visitor economy.
Margy Osmond, CEO of the Tourism and Transport Forum
The past two years has left Australia’s tourism and hospitality sector in a time of deep uncertainty and volatility. We need good government policy that ensures a standard of consistency across the board to get people out and stimulating the amazing tourist destinations that WA has to offer.
Wes Lambert, CEO of the Restaurant & Catering Association of Australia
Short term rental accommodation plays a critical role in supporting the 300,000+ small businesses that make up the visitor economy across Australia. In regional communities, it helps to spread the economic benefit of tourism more broadly across the community while also supporting events, restaurants, cafes and tour operators. Any policy change to short term rental accommodation needs to be carefully considered to avoid a detrimental impact on the tourism industry, and particularly at a time when it is trying to rebuild from the devastation of Covid-19.
Coralie Bell, Chair at Australian Regional Tourism