Airbnb nets WA homeowners $4.5m a month

WA's peak hotel body has called for the state government to start regulating 'quasi-hotels' after a report revealed Airbnb is booming in the state.

The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre report on The Impact of Airbnb on WA's Tourism Industry, released on Friday, showed WA had more than 8000 Airbnb listings in March 2017 - most offering short-term stays in an entire house or apartment.

The shared accommodation platform now accounts for an estimated 25 per cent of WA's room capacity, with supply increasing by around four per cent each month.

Australian Hotels Association WA chief executive Bradley Woods said the platform, which was originally launched as a means for people to rent out their 'spare rooms', had become more like a hotel service.

He urged state and local governments to create a level playing field for Airbnb operators which would require them to adhere to the same level of regulation as hotels and serviced apartments.

"The Western Australian Government has an opportunity to lead with fairer regulation of commercial accommodation and develop a model that allows for legal Airbnb operators to exist alongside hotels and serviced apartments," Mr Woods said.

"Planning guidelines should be developed for local government authorities to manage the sector whilst still delivering results for tourism, the economy and job creation."

The report revealed 61.4 per cent of Airbnb listings were for entire homes or apartments, while 38.6 per cent were for private or shared rooms.

The hotspots for listings in WA were Perth suburbs along the Swan and Canning Rivers, the metropolitan coastline and the state's southwest.

In October 2016, the City of Perth had 588 listings, Fremantle and Rottnest had 311 and Margaret River 295.

The average occupancy rate was less than 20 per cent, meaning listings were booked for around 75 days a year, netting owners an average monthly income of $626.

Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre professor Alan Duncan said the platform earned operators in WA in excess of $4.5 million per month in total - capturing 10 per cent of the state's international holidaymakers.

"While the platform continues to grow, the Western Australian tourism industry is undergoing rapid transformation, with a softening of the business travel market and a substantial increase in hotel room supply," he said.

"This report shows Airbnb users are younger, less likely to be travelling alone, and have a tendency to visit wine regions such as Margaret River and the Swan Valley.

"Of particular note is the country of origin, with almost half of all Airbnb holidaymakers in WA coming from Singapore or Malaysia."

He said while most tourism stakeholders see the potential for innovation and new opportunities, others were apprehensive and called for government intervention and regulation.

"It is essential that any policies or regulations are made in light of WA's local context and are adaptive, given Airbnb's quick development and continual evolution," he said.

Airbnb country manager San McDonagh said the report confirmed Airbnb was an important part of the WA tourism industry.

"The Airbnb community is growing because people want a more authentic kind of travel," he said.

"Put simply, Airbnb is helping Western Australia attract and host more people, turbocharge the economy, and grow the tourism pie.

"These results reinforce the urgent need for fair and progressive rules for home sharing in Western Australia. Our community needs clarity and certainty if it is to continue to grow and support the economy."

Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said she was working with the Department of Planning to review the state's tourism related policies, including land use planning issues associated with short-term, sharing economy accommodation.

A WA Local Government Association discussion paper is also being drafted.

The story Airbnb nets WA homeowners $4.5m a month first appeared on WA Today.

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