Tourism boss slams Coast business over 'scapegoat' claims

TAKING ACTION: Visit Sunshine Coast deputy chair Mark Skinner owns Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat.
TAKING ACTION: Visit Sunshine Coast deputy chair Mark Skinner owns Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat. Fred McKie

A MAJOR international tourism boss has lashed out at a Sunshine Coast organisation over scapegoat claims.

Airbnb has retaliated to claims the company was "putting pressure" on local accommodation providers, labelling the claims "unfair" and "wrong".

It comes after Visit Sunshine Coast deputy chair Mark Skinner, owner of Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat in Montville, said Airbnb's presence on the Coast would contribute to the predicted tourism slump local businesses should expect to feel this year.

Mr Skinner called on state and local governments to support "legitimate" accommodation providers "who do the right thing", under an onslaught of competition from unregulated, cheaper services like Airbnb.

Airbnb policy boss Brent Thomas said it was misguided to use home- sharing as a "scapegoat" for the tourism slump.

"Tourism is not a zero-sum game. For the Airbnb community to grow, no providers have to shrink," Mr Thomas said.

"Put simply, Airbnb is growing the tourism pie.

"We make travel more accessible and affordable for more people than ever. Our community, with its unique offerings, acts as a magnet for people who otherwise would not have been able to travel.

"We know one in three guests who use Airbnb only travel because of Airbnb."

He said Airbnb injected more than $217 million into the Queensland economy and created more than 2115 jobs.

"We want to work constructively and collaboratively with the whole industry to turbo-charge the local tourism economy and create more jobs for locals."

But Mr Skinner said the issue with "unregulated short-term accommodation" was that the market took away from "legitimate B&Bs".

"The Sunshine Coast Hinterland has an excellent selection of high-quality B&Bs and guest houses.

"They meet all guest safety, environmental and fee requirements, they pay towards marketing the region, and they meet all their council obligations, so why should someone just set up a commercial operation using one of the new distribution channels without meeting these obligations?"

Mr Skinner said the issue wasn't about the owners who "genuinely" shared their homes, but more so the property owners who rented out their homes entirely.

"In other words, there's no sharing at all," Mr Skinner said.

"What is required is a level playing field, and at the moment this isn't the case.

"Cities and regions around the world are implementing strict requirements for short-term accommodation providers, and the Sunshine Coast should be no exception."

Topics:  accomodation airbnb home-sharing hospitality sunshine coast tourism travel

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