AirBnB-style platforms prompt need for tourism rethink

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
VideoWA's peak business body is warning the government against Airbnb crackdown.

The region’s peak traditional accommodation group says the Shire needs to revise its tourism strategy in the wake of Airbnb-style incursions into the holiday market.

Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region also says there is evidence that cut-price competition from online platforms and illegal operators is driving some in the sector out of business.

RAPMRR spokeswoman Debbie Noonan said residential rezoning approval sought by the owners of Station House Chalets on Railway Terrace was a worrying sign that might set a precedent for embattled traditional owners.

“The owners are requesting the rezoning from tourist to residential zoning because they are not making money and cannot afford to reinvest because of excess competition,” she said.

“This view has been supported by the Augusta-Margaret River Shire staff, and (looks) likely to be passed by council.”

The scheme amendment requests splitting the three properties into individual homes, with the business unsaleable because the owners, who have relocated, were required to make it viable.

“This will probably be the first of many accommodation providers looking at this option,” she said.

“As more accommodation providers close down and rezone, so will the Shire’s accommodation industry, employment that goes with this industry, future investments and reinvestment by our industry.”

RAPMRR co-spokesman Rob McDonald said the Shire’s 2015 tourism strategy discussed working closely with operators to address low occupancy and profit rates.

Yet the region had already gained more accommodation listings than the 2026 forecast of a 32.8 per cent growth rate.

Shire acting sustainable development director Nick Logan did not comment on the specifics of the Railway Terrace applica-tion.

While conceding 322 extra holiday homes gained approval in the past seven years, the Airbnb phenomenon was “what can fairly be considered as a (recent) global shift in demand for different forms of tourism accommodation”.

“Shire policy has become more restrictive in recent times with respect to where holiday homes can be located, responding to issues including suburban amenity and the preservation of permanent accommodation supply,” he said.

“The Shire is committed to working with the local tourism sector and through the impending Economics and Industry Inquiry into short-stay accommodation to seek a fair and balanced outcome for the community within the scope of influence under the Shire’s control.”

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