Australian towns and local governments declare war on Airbnb

The rise of Airbnb is killing tourism providers in coastal towns.

Australia at war with Airbnb

Airbnb is spreading like a virus, particularly around coastal towns and popular beachside holiday spots. But is the rising tide of Airbnb-listed accommodation good for Aussie tourism, or will the virus kill the system?

Almost 20 per cent of all Byron Bay properties are now listed on Airbnb, and in Queensland’s coastal regions, the number of Airbnb-listed properties has doubled in the past 18 months. Around four per cent of houses on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula are listed, as are two per cent of Sunshine Coast properties and 5.4 per cent in Busselton, Western Australia.

Airbnb is spreading everywhere but, according to tourism expert David Beirman, its growth is particularly focused on coastal suburbs.

“It’s not just happening in Byron Bay. Everywhere where there’s a shortage of traditional accommodation, there’s growth of Airbnb,” said Mr Beirman.

“In NSW this includes Coogee, Maroubra and Matraville – a lot of the beachside suburbs as well as Palm Beach and Avalon – and Airbnb probably contributes to about 30 per cent of all accommodation in the Randwick region.”

While Airbnb listings offer more accommodation options – often at low prices – the benefit to travellers comes at a cost to the community.

Traditional accommodation providers, such as hotels, motels and registered BNBs, are suffering from being overrun by Airbnb and are being forced to reduce prices and accept lower profit margins to stay competitive. Not doing so often means they lose business altogether.

“Our business is down 50 per cent on last year. This is our only source of income,” said one owner of a boutique bed and breakfast in Launceston, Tasmania.

“I’m not against Airbnb. It has its place, but it’s grown so quickly and there are just too many listings. We’re now competing with 500 other places. We can’t sustain that.”

And it’s not just accommodation providers that are being hurt by Airbnb. Local businesses and communities are simply not set up to handle the extra load incurred by an overload of tourists in the area, pushing public transport, restaurants and local amenities beyond their capacity.

The increasing number of Airbnbs means no one can ever know the number of visitors in an area, which in turn, means local businesses can’t plan for the influx or lack thereof.

“These have previously met the maximum number of hotel beds; however, as visitors increase due to more availability of beds [through Airbnb], … there is no certainty anymore of knowing what the maximum number [of beds] could be with Airbnb,” said tourism expert Karen Hofman.

“To meet the growing numbers, either businesses need to expand or more businesses need to open. That creates more competition and, given many destinations are seasonal, could potentially cause businesses to shut down due to an oversupply of services during the quieter times.

“Airbnb has its place in the market as it encourages competitiveness. However, there is a tipping point at which it is no longer of benefit to the consumer, local businesses, local residents or a destination.”

To combat this very thing happening to Byron Bay, the council has announced new laws that will impose massive fines on unregistered Airbnb listings. Non-compliance will mean risking $3000 fines for individuals or $6000 for companies.

“Due to Byron Shire’s popularity as a tourist destination, many people now see short-term holiday letting as their opportunity to make money on their property from tourism and in some cases, this can come at a cost to the community,” said Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson.

“There are hundreds of approved tourism accommodation providers in the Byron Shire who do the right thing with respect to approvals, safety and compliance.

“Something needs to be done to protect our community’s right to residential areas that are filled with neighbours not tourists.”

Do you think Byron Bay council is overreacting? Or can you see the rationale behind such a heavy-handed reaction? Do you use Airbnb?



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    bloke in the bush
    20th Oct 2018
    I am a great fan of Airbnb - have spent two years traveling solo around Europe and stayed in 36 Airbnb apartments - ( plus two nights in a hotel ) ... I had wonderful experiences and meet super people through my hosts and all the time was able to self-cater ( thus supporting local food markets and businesses ) and lived in comfortable and clean apartments ... without Airbnb many people ( including myself ) could not afford to travel ... and how boring it is to sleep in stale expensive tourist hotels and dine in expensive over-rated restaurants - all the time surrounded by other noisy tourists - why travel like that when you can live in the suburbs and experience local life all at a fraction of the cost ... I'm all for Airbnb ...
    20th Oct 2018
    Likewise. They have their place but the real problem has been around the owners of these places knowingly renting them to yahoos looking for a place to run all night parties. The places properly run may not be wonderful for neighbours but they can work. We have used these in Europe as well. They certainly make a holiday affordable and the good part is they are essentially replacement homes rather than just a room where you have to go out and spend a fortune on food.
    20th Oct 2018
    Byron is very expensive. That's the problem in Australia. It may be high bed taxes, wages , rates, rents, electricity but it's often excessive for just one night stays and then you have the must stay two or three night joints.
    I'm glad Airb&b are competing and getting some sanity into the price of a bed for a night.

    Also many hotels and b&bs really don't have the best facilities, kitchens and bars so why pay for that.
    20th Oct 2018
    Airbnb are also becoming expensive in some locations. We've used them for years but it is no longer a room in a house which is offered but rather a whole house. Landlords have tweaked and are charging an arm and a leg in desirable locations.
    Byron was one of the original horror locations for Airbnbs and all night parties and harassment of locals, etc. was the norm. It is good to see regulation creep in to stop the abuse of neighbours and more needs to happen.
    Old Geezer
    20th Oct 2018
    Bryon Bay charges $100 for a van site over Christmas and I have just heard you have to now book and pay for 2 weeks not one now. No wonder Airbnb is o popular in Byron Bay.

    I think I might rent out some rooms on Airbnb myself as I have got plenty of spare ones at present. $100 a night that $700 a week per room. If I charge a bit more I could throw in breakfast too.

    Already have a few people camping on my property but I donate that to charity.
    Old Geezer
    20th Oct 2018
    The real problem with Airbnb around here is that properties that used to be used as permanent rentals are now used as Airbnbs. One fellow I know in Byron Bay makes over a million dollars a year now which is a lot more than he used to make when they were permanent rentals.
    20th Oct 2018
    Back from campaigning at the Wentworth by election OG? Of course.

    Yes you are correct. Residential homes have been rebranded as hotel/short term rentals despite the zoning forbidding this. Residential zoning is NOT a commercial zone but who cares when the laws can be ignored.
    Yes some people have cashed in as they always do. The tide will turn once politicians and regulators start to lose neighbours and have them replaces by 'rent a crowd'. Funny how the top end of town always makes different rules for itself. This phenomenon will be not different.
    21st Oct 2018
    Yes MICK having temporary renters next door each weekend would be a nightmare and is why the zoning forbids it.
    20th Oct 2018
    You're about 6 years too late Leon.
    Airbnb has been an absolute scourge for people who live in desirable locations as most of the landlords are non resident and simply DO NOT CARE what happens in their properties as long as the money keeps rolling in. The lament in your article about 'losing income' is the normal sort of drone from landlords who did nothing to stop blatant misuse of residential zonings 6 years ago when the government was looking the other way for their mates in the real estate business.
    Airbnbs are STILL being used as venues and local councils still seek to avoid being involved but things have improved. I have zero sympathy for owners of these places unless they take all measures to refuse party rentals. Some won't...and this is where regulation needs to close them down, something bureaucrats do not want to do.
    21st Oct 2018
    We are starting to see this MICK. Property is so expensive here now down on the beach that only a few lucky long timers own and live there now. The properties are all owned by wealthy as holiday homes and when times get tougher they will Air b&b which we are not looking forward to. Like Noosa it's a crush of rude, ignorant and littering humans here every Summer and Easter.

    It's zoned for rental so not much can be done. Dreading Schoolies as that is crazy too.
    20th Oct 2018
    A very disappointing, biased and illogical piece of writing, LifeChoices. You should be ashamed of yourselves. It's called HEALTHY COMPETITION and Airbnb enables so many people to travel and provide support to local businesses whilst doing so. What's wrong with that?
    20th Oct 2018
    My wife and I have lived through the most atrocious abuse you could ever imagine from this industry and clearly you are a player and not a victim of this industry.
    I congratulate you if you are one of the few hosts who do the right thing.

    I call for regulations to go back to the roots of Airbnb: room rentals, not full house rentals. That was hosts are hosts and not landlords and control what happens in their own living space.
    Keep this one going YLC.
    20th Oct 2018
    Yes MICK I can see how it could be an issue. I have rentals on both sides of me. We had party people in recently but they moved on. We made sure we were insanely noisy every morning after the party the night before. It might not work for a b%b but who knows. If you party all night around here no way do you get to sleep all day.

    I've never stayed at an Air b&b as I enjoy hotels but I'm fussy if I don't get quality for the money. If hospitality lifted it's game it would be better all round.

    I believe the neighbours on my other side moved some young party goers on by simply calling the drug squad a time or two. Those meth screamers can be decidedly scary.

    Part of the problem gets back once again to rapid population growth and not gearing up for it so people miss out on holiday spots they have used and loved for generations because suddenly the demand is outstripping the supply.
    20th Oct 2018
    I have a lot of personal knowledge about this industry and can see exactly what you may be going through.
    Whilst the Residential Zoning should not be permitted to be used for short term letting the powers that be have decided its long as they are not affected. The real estate industry (electoral donations?) has been part and parcel of the problem and this is why it took over 5 years to get the state government to act. It eventually did...kicking and screaming all the way to the legislation.
    Ok, so we have what we have. Having said that hosts do now have limitations on them and if they allow party groups to rent then you can put in a complaint and ask that the misuse be stopped. Expect council to do everything to wiggle out of their responsibility though.
    The other thing is hosts CAN make it clear on their website that parties are NOT PERMITTED and that the bond will be forfeit if renters try it on. IT WORKS! The problem always comes back to hosts who want the big money....and only party crowds will pay this. It's a catch 22.
    Good luck with your problem. It's wrong but this is vested interests speaking. They are happy to ruin your life as long as theirs is never compromised.
    80 plus
    20th Oct 2018
    Airbnb may offer affordable accommodation but the down side is in our part of Cairns one landlord has 26 Airnbn units this means a lot of rentals being removed from the market and a lot more noise, car parking problems and more rubbish, Airnbn with a on site landlord was OK but now it is advertised as 5 star self catering.
    20th Oct 2018
    You forgot the all night parties, the prostitues and the total disrespect for permanent residents. The response when you remind rent a party that they are in a residential area is often 'we paid to do this', so the problem is the refusal to regulate rather than the industry itself. It all cames back to political donations and government of all kind and persuasion looking the other way.
    20th Oct 2018
    AirBnB is a commercial business where it is short term accommodation for profit the same as a hotel and motel so to me they should come under the same regulations which includes licensing, safety requirements and location in an approved area and not allowed in non commercial areas such as residential areas. A lot of these AirBnB's are not registered and are not paying their appropriate taxes the same as the hotels and motels.
    20th Oct 2018
    All of that is correct but the central point is the rentals are being conducted on land which is zones RESIDENTIAL. The uses are COMMERCIAL and councils $& state governments are breaking the law. They know that but are so arrogant that they do not care.
    20th Oct 2018
    Air bnb has its place. In WA when the boom was in full swing the Hotels put up their prices to a level that the normal middle income tourist was unable to afford.
    Now the boom has gone backwards the Hotels are finding visitors are not prepared to pay the high charges of the Hotels.
    Hotels are demanding that the Air BnB can only be let out for a minimum of 14 days on one booking.
    Now the Hotels must be on the same level as they can only have the same 14 days as a minimum booking. NO more one nights for visitors then both Hotels and Air Bnb are on the same level. Air Bnb may not have the same requirements from the L A, or Government requirements, however they do have many overheads and are some time cheaper than the hotels that provide extra visitors to an area.
    I agree NO PARTIES or bad behaviour from each BnB, which can be reported to the LA. Too many complaints from that property, the LA can ban the house from the BnB system.
    The Hotels want it their own way, sorry you can't, look at your costs and provision of service to the overall tourist trade.
    21st Oct 2018
    That is insane. How many people including business need to stay for 14 nights.
    I get angsty about even the minimum two night stay as when I'm driving anywhere in Australia now I only drive around 4 hours before stopping at a motel, hotel or resort. If in a hurry I fly. I only want to stay one night and there are some hospitality places I'll never ring again because of that 2 night stay requirement.
    21st Oct 2018
    Gotta wonder what's in this for this council - is this a genuine problem or are they trying to cash in on this (with permits, council approvals etc) Will surely push prices of "approved" Air BnB's up would have to think. PS I am also a fan (as mentioned by others, could not afford travel without this & had also been considering the idea of renting out my place in a couple of years when I want to travel, but this will kill that idea I daresay. Too much beaurocracy in the world (esp here in Aus) - some modern things are good, but feel like I'm drowning in a crazy era of needing so much money to get by in this expensive world & having to work harder & harder to make ends meet! Glad I'm not the next generation or 2 that follow.
    21st Oct 2018
    Yes Rae. The head of Hotels Western Australia is the one who put up the idea of the 14 days being the minimum for AirBnb. It appears he has a beef about his lot while the boom was on to make as much money as they can and now the boom is gone he still want the Hotels to have almost the same price as the boom.
    It is our turn now against the boom, enjoy Air BnB. Book BnB rooms and enjoy the flexibility and not have to stay at a hotel for a MIN of 14 nights as he wants. He should take of his Rose coloured glasses and see the real world of the average traveller and their finances
    La Verne
    22nd Oct 2018
    I am an Air BnB host and a senior trying to survive on an Age Pension. Frankly the only way I can survive financially and stay in my own home is to offer a part of it for Air BnB guests.
    At 74 years of age, this is the only way I can earn income. I would rather not have to be cleaning up after people , washing and ironing sheets etc., but I do it because its my only option to supplement my age pension. And I obviously do it well as I am a Super Host. Guests get to stay in a one bedroom self contained apartment, which offers way more space and privacy than a single hotel room. The only solution I can see to the problems raised is for Air BnB hosts to register so Tourism authorities can monitor the use of AirBnB. 99% of my guests have been lovely friendly people and I have made several friends through my Air BnB.

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