TOURISM IN THE AIR

The great de­bate: How to lure more visi­tors to the Coffs Coast? Will Coffs thrive through on­line ren­tals?

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - FRONT PAGE - JAS­MINE MINHAS

FOR a tourism hotspot like the Coffs Coast, the rise of on­line holiday let­ting has of­fered a wind­fall to home own­ing hosts, but im­pacted neg­a­tively on ac­com­mo­da­tion providers and some lo­cal neigh­bour­hoods.

Mar­ket leader Airbnb now has 644 lo­cal ren­tals on its books, having more than dou­bled its list­ings in two years.

Holiday let­ting is cer­tainly a press­ing mat­ter for the Destination Coffs Coast Com­mit­tee, which this week dis­cussed the fu­ture of tourism on the coast.

A MIS­IN­FORMED so­cial me­dia post was the cat­a­lyst for dis­cus­sion this week, show­ing we’re reach­ing a crit­i­cal point in the bat­tle for and against short-term holiday let­ting plat­forms like Airbnb.

Panic was in­cited by a Face­book post this week warn­ing res­i­dents that Coffs Har­bour City Coun­cil was shut­ting down Airbnb ren­tals and a meet­ing was be­ing held to dis­cuss the plan.

At the meet­ing, how­ever, the coun­cil’s sec­tion leader In­dus­try and Destination De­vel­op­ment, Stephen Saunders, was quick to end the ru­mour.

“There has been a lot of ac­tiv­ity on so­cial me­dia and the com­ments are in­cor­rect. Some­one has put two and two to­gether and has got 66. Coun­cil does not have any ac­tive mo­tions hap­pen­ing around the is­sue,” he said.

There was in­deed a meet­ing held on Mon­day, a quarterly event held by the Destination Coffs Coast Com­mit­tee. In­dus­try mem­bers gath­ered at Aanuka Beach Re­sort to dis­cuss the fu­ture of lo­cal tourism in the face of emerg­ing short­term holiday ren­tals, in par­tic­u­lar Airbnb.

A de­ci­sion is ex­pected to soon be made by the NSW Gov­ern­ment on what reg­u­la­tory ap­proach will be en­forced on the likes of Airbnb and Stayz.

“From a state point of view, the gov­ern­ment is still con­sid­er­ing what they’re go­ing to do in terms of short-term holiday let­ting. This meet­ing is to help peo­ple in the tourism in­dus­try be aware of the trends and what’s hap­pen­ing,” Mr Saunders said.

“It’s an im­por­tant is­sue but it’s also a vexed is­sue, many lo­cal govern­ments up and down the coast are try­ing to do some­thing about it. I can’t fore­shadow what the coun­cil here want to do but at the mo­ment there’s no spe­cific push.”

Coffs Har­bour City Coun­cil’s zon­ing laws and Lo­cal En­vi­ron­men­tal Plan are used to reg­u­late Airbnb ren­tals. A breach of these, such as ex­cess noise, can re­sult in the coun­cil tak­ing ac­tion.

“There was com­men­tary on so­cial me­dia about coun­cil shut­ting down Airbnbs and I can con­firm there is no initiative to do that, how­ever, coun­cil does have to re­spond if they re­ceive com­plaints from mem­bers of the pub­lic and needs to make sure peo­ple com­ply with zon­ing and other reg­u­la­tions.

“I think per­haps it’s ob­vi­ously an in­di­ca­tion of how im­por­tant this is to many peo­ple.”

As of 2018, there are a to­tal of 644 ac­tive Airbnb ren­tals, which has more than dou­bled in two years. In the past month, the av­er­age daily rate for a rental was $170, and the rev­enue was $2000.

Gael Drum, who owns two prop­er­ties cur­rently listed on Airbnb, said it pro­vides a ser­vice for tourists which they can­not find at lo­cal ho­tels and re­sorts. “I wanted to cre­ate the ac­com­mo­da­tion ex­pe­ri­ence I found very dif­fi­cult out there in the mar­ket place. I wanted to give guests an easy check in, with ev­ery­thing up-to-date, clean, on trend, with a pantry that’s stocked.

“We put a lot of money back into the com­mu­nity while pro­vid­ing a great ser­vice. We’re stock­ing our cup­board with lo­cal pro­duce and buy­ing fur­ni­ture from lo­cal stores. I be­lieve there is enough room for ev­ery­body in the in­dus­try.”

Some in­dus­try mem­bers, in­clud­ing Sue and Fritz Dimm­lich from CasaBelle in Bellingen, were con­cerned Airbnb was cre­at­ing an un­fair play­ing field. “We’ve had our guest house for 22 years so we’re in­ter­ested to see what hap­pens with Airbnb. My con­cerns are mainly from a leg­isla­tive point of view that it’s not re­ally a fair play­ing ground at the mo­ment, we have to pay fees Airbnb hosts do not and have a lot more reg­u­la­tions to abide by.”

Photo: Trevor Veale

Coffs Har­bour City Coun­cil sec­tion leader In­dus­try and Destination De­vel­op­ment, Stephen Saunders, ad­dresses tourism in­dus­try mem­bers.

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