Airbnb hosts sign up to club

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Local Airbnb host Lou-Ann Bottomley is one of more than 30 providers signing up for the local Airbnb club.
Camera IconLocal Airbnb host Lou-Ann Bottomley is one of more than 30 providers signing up for the local Airbnb club.

A new group for Airbnb hosts has started in Margaret River as debate about the online platform refuses to go away.

The club brings together registered accommodation providers who use the online platform to network, share information and benefit from a combined approach to the day-to-day business of managing properties.

The initiative was started by Airbnb, and seen by some as a kickback against negative publicity around the platform as listings soar across the Capes region.

“More people than ever from WA are choosing to become hosts or guests on Airbnb,” Airbnb head of public policy Brent Thomas said.

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“Airbnb helps local families earn extra income to ease the cost of living or afford a family getaway on the coast.

“The local Airbnb community of hosts and guests is now a political constituency too big to ignore.”

Coastal Airbnb host Lou-Ann Bottomley told the Times she signed on for the club ahead of its first meeting earlier this month because it was good to share information with fellow hosts. About 30 people attended the first meeting.

Ms Bottomley said there wasn’t much angst among members around the local Airbnb debate because all hosts in the club had planning approval.

“Airbnb has been running for nearly 10 years and people want choice,” she said.

Ms Bottomley runs a self-contained single-bedroom apartment attached to her own home.

The listing is a hit with foreign tourists, in particular because of the coastal views and sense of remoteness, despite only being 10 minutes from town.

“A lot of overseas people like the idea they’re living like an Aussie,” she said. “People just want the choice of something different. They are so used to apartment living, yet we are so close to everything.”

The Airbnb host club enables members to share feedback and offer industry solutions, as well as navigate political issues like Airbnb itself, which is subject to a State parliamentary inquiry expected to finish next week.

Before now, the Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region was the leading campaigner against operators avoiding the costs and responsibilities of formal registration with the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River.

Spokeswoman Debbie Noonan said there was no issue with the new club given many RAPMRR members also used Airbnb for listings.

“All small businesses benefit from the advice and help from others,” Ms Noonan said.

She congratulated the club’s formation and welcomed the chance to work with members.

However, Ms Noonan said it was “a shame” Airbnb’s Mr Thomas “has used this club to push Airbnb’s political views”.

In a media statement, Mr Thomas said in other parts of Australia, “when our community organises themselves, politicians listen”.

Mr Thomas said hosts in Margaret River were “deeply concerned local politicians have become captured by powerful vested interests and vocal minorities”. “These groups want to impose unfair, one-size-fits-all regulations which will restrict consumer choice and reduce competition in tourism,” he said.

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