A BENDIGO motel owner has called for nationwide regulation on Airbnb accommodation, citing a system unfair for registered businesses.
Bendigo Motels Association president Charlie Loftus said registered businesses supported council, paid higher rates, higher insurance and a fire service levy.
But he believed many Airbnb owners were taking part in an unregulated market, with no watchdog or checks.
His comments come after the city's bed and breakfast association disbanded last year, with one member blaming a drop in trade.
Mr Loftus said it was "unfair" that legitimate, registered businesses went through all the legal financial hoops, while somebody was sneaking through a loophole.
He said motel owners were concerned with the reputation of Bendigo's accommodation in terms of Airbnb.
"The safety standards of those places, nobody knows, nobody checks them. You have to take the word of the owner," Mr Loftus said.
"We have fire safety, emergency management plans, we have annual inspection from council, whether it's food safety or prescribed accommodation. We're checked, we're regulated. Our insurance is all checked and up to date.
I don't see why they should be getting a free ride.Charlie Loftus
"There are so many different areas that are covered by registered legitimate ... accommodation business compared to [Airbnbs]."
Airbnb owners are not required to be registered with the Victorian government. Requirements vary from council to council.
Various types of accommodation providers must register with the City of Greater Bendigo, but its website does not mention Airbnb.
Airbnb has about 250-300 listings in Bendigo, including entire houses and private rooms within occupied houses.
In 2018, the chief executive of Victoria's peak tourism body warned of unwanted consequences of onerous regulation on short-term accommodation websites such as Airbnb.
Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said the government needed to find a "sensible" middle, citing small operators who relied on channels like Airbnb or Stayz.
The comments followed new laws from the state government giving the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal power to order short-stay accommodation owners to pay up to $2000 in compensation to neighbours for property damage.
These were an amendment to the Owners Corporation Amendment (Short Stay Accommodation) Act, passed in August 2018.
A state government spokesperson said a post-implementation review would be undertaken within two years of the laws commencing, to examine the effectiveness or reforms and find out if further changes were needed.
Mr Loftus called for a national standard of regulation for Airbnb accommodation, uniform throughout the country.
"If they're going to play in the accommodation game as a business, they should be paying commercial rates, commercial insurance, they should be paying their fire service levy at commercial rates," he said.
"I don't see why they should be getting a free ride."
An Airbnb spokesperson said the safety of guests and hosts were its top priorities.
The spokesperson did not respond specifically to questions from the Bendigo Advertiser about safety requirements for accommodation providers .
"Our platform was designed with safety at its core so that travellers can enjoy a stress-free trip and focus on exploring their destination," the spokesperson said.
"While negative incidents are extremely rare, we enforce strict policies to ensure the safety of all users of our platform. Our team is also continually looking at how we can further strengthen our trust and safety systems."
Airbnb's website references a Host Guarantee, to cover damage to a host's home.
The website also cites a Host Protection Insurance of up to $1 million USD, to protect against third party claims for personal injury or property damage.
Mr Loftus said motels' business had not really been affected by the rise of Airbnb in Bendigo.
But he said sadly the city seemed to have lost a lot of traditional bed and breakfasts with the rise of Airbnb.
"Some operators ... have said, 'What's the point of being registered and doing everything right, when other people don't even bother?'," Mr Loftus said.
"So they've dropped their registration and put their properties on Airbnb."
Maiden Gully bed and breakfast owner Bruce Phillips said Bendigo's BNB association had become defunct since Airbnb entered the market.
Mr Phillips believed quite a few had moved across to Airbnb.
He said income from his bed and breakfast had dropped since Airbnb first began operating in Bendigo.
Mr Phillips first noticed the change at some point in 2018, and definitely by 2019.
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Mr Loftus said Airbnb liked to present the image that they were hosted accommodation, like a traditional bed and breakfast business.
But probably less than 25 per cent of their listings were like this, he said.
Mr Loftus said he was not overly concerned by the effect of competition from Airbnb on Bendigo motels.
"A motel room is not a house. So really, people who want houses will go and rent houses. And pay substantially more for them," he said.
"Whereas you've got your traditional person who just wants a room, a comfortable bed, your own bathroom.
"That type of person is always going to be out there for our market."
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