THE chief executive of Victoria’s peak tourism body says governments need to be careful of unwanted consequences brought by onerous regulation of short-term accommodation sites such as Airbnb.
There are more than 260 properties in Bendigo listed on Airbnb, including about 180 entire houses, increasing competition for traditional accommodation providers and removing potential rentals from the local housing market.
There are also 91 Bendigo properties listed on Stayz. The average occupancy rate for short-term accommodation in Bendigo is 60 per cent at an average of $148 per night.
The state government passed new laws this month giving VCAT the power to order short-stay accommodation owners to pay up to $2000 in compensation to neighbours for property damage.
“Unruly” guests could also attract fines up to $1100 for the property owner.
The laws were brought in following the death of a woman in a Melbourne apartment in July.
Further regulation is likely to be introduced in the future, bringing Victoria in line with other states. Internationally, cities have sought to limit the number of Airbnb properties in order to control housing stock.
Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani is in Bendigo this week to take part in seminars with regional visitor information centre delegates.
She said websites like Airbnb and Stayz had a role to play in regional tourism markets, and the government needed to find a “sensible middle” when considering regulation.
“There is a lot of concern at the moment about the implications of short-term accommodation, and VTIC is working closely with our accommodation sector and our operators to try and navigate where is a sensible middle in this whole discussion,” Ms Mariani said.
“There are a lot of small operators who rely on channels like AirBNB, Stayz... to actually use those as digital distribution channels to get to consumers.
“It’s a balancing act in finding a sensible middle, because there are a lot of small operators that rely on those channels to support what is potentially a very slow period.
“How do you do it in a sensible way that doesn’t end up creating a whole lot of other negative issues that we haven’t even started to realise yet?”
Strata, Australia’s peak body for body corporates, described the regulations as the “weakest” in Australia.
Motel owners in Bendigo have also raised concerns about the proliferation of Airbnb properties.
Tourism in Bendigo a ‘poster child’ for regional cities
Bendigo’s transformation into a regional hub for arts and culture is being used as a model for other regional Victorian towns and cities, Ms Mariani said.
“The reinvention of this destination six or seven years ago on the back of the arts and culture demand that was driven by the gallery here has really become the poster child for how to reinvent a destination,” she said.
“Since that time many regions across Victoria are trying to emulate and replicate what’s been achieved here with the gallery, and how the industry has gotten right behind the arts and culture movement that has really seen this destination flourish.”
The Capital will host a day of seminars for visitor information centre delegates from across regional Victoria on Thursday, including sessions on how to better market regions using online tools.
VTIC also provided an update on its election priorities, including a request to extend the Regional Tourism and Infrastructure Fund beyond its expiry in mid-2019. VTIC is requesting $20 million over four years for grants for local tourism operators.