Tourism ac­com­mo­da­tions need a level play­ing field

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Editorial - Ge­orge But­ler, owner/oper­a­tor Rothe­say House Her­itage Inn B&B Har­bour Grace

The “so­cial shar­ing” con­cept of try­ing to make a few ex­tra dol­lars to make ends meet by giv­ing Ju­nior’s bed­room a fresh coat a paint and rent­ing it out to some come­from-aways has mor­phed into a dy­namic and highly prof­itable busi­ness phe­nom­e­non driven by savvy in­ter­net mar­ket­ing plat­forms such as Airbnb. The 2017 val­u­a­tion is $31 bil­lion.

From a few air mat­tresses on the floor in a San Fran­cisco apart­ment, to a room, to a sin­gle dwelling, to mul­ti­ple dwellings, to condo units, yes b’y, busi­ness is boom­ing for the neo­phyte rent­ing out Ju­nior’s room as well as the new en­tre­pre­neur in­vestor(s) in sin­gle and mul­ti­ple unit short­term rental units.

These folks rep­re­sent a myr­iad of back­grounds, be it re­tired pen­sion­ers, ac­tive real es­tate ty­coons, politi­cians — to name a few — and who can blame them not want­ing to get a piece of that $31-bil­lion pie, eh b’y? And all you got to do is get a lick a paint on Ju­nior’s room! Ergo, why would any­body in their right mind want to open a B&B, what with all the reg­u­la­tions and costs as­so­ci­ated with be­ing a “le­gal” tourism ac­com­mo­da­tion?

In this province, un­like a num­ber of other Cana­dian ju­ris­dic­tions, the Depart­ment of Tourism, Cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment has not ad­dressed reg­u­lat­ing the un­der­ground Airbnb in­dus­try un­der the Tourism Act, much to the detri­ment of the B&B in­dus­try in this province, which es­sen­tially fa­cil­i­tated the growth and unique­ness of ru­ral tourism over the years.

Airbnb op­er­a­tors are un­der ab­so­lutely no reg­u­la­tory obli­ga­tion to par­tic­i­pate in the as­so­ci­ated fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions man­dated to le­git­i­mate ac­com­mo­da­tion op­er­a­tors in this province. That be­ing the case then, the con­tri­bu­tion of Airbnbs to the fi­nan­cial eco­nomic “cap­i­tal” in­fra­struc­ture of the province is neg­li­gi­ble and un­mea­sur­able. No as­so­ci­a­tion fees, no busi­ness/com­mer­cial taxes, GST. No com­mer­cial in­sur­ance/ li­a­bil­ity, no qual­ity as­sur­ance mon­i­tor­ing, etc.

Hospi­tal­ity New­found­land and Labrador, as the as­so­ci­a­tion arm of tourism in New­found­land un­der the Depart­ment of Busi­ness, Tourism, Cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment, has re­cently is­sued a press re­lease at­tempt­ing to in­form and ad­dress the call for reg­u­la­tory ac­tion re­gard­ing the Airbnb plat­form aimed at the provin­cial gov­ern­ment — an at­tempt to light a fire un­der the arse of the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble to take ac­tion.

We, as suc­cess­ful and long-term B&B owner/op­er­a­tors, to­gether with oth­ers, are some­what per­plexed and take great um­brage with the cur­rent min­is­ter of Tourism in­di­cat­ing dur­ing a tele­vi­sion broad­cast re­gard­ing this is­sue that Airbnbs are a pos­i­tive con­trib­u­tor to the tourism econ­omy here in New­found­land and Labrador. To us, these com­ments are illinformed and con­trary to what is ac­tu­ally oc­cur­ring within this seg­ment of the tourism in­dus­try. The state­ment es­sen­tially throws the B&B in­dus­try in New­found­land and Labrador un­der the tour bus. We are about more than just put­ting ex­tra ar­ses in the bed to fill oc­cu­pancy sta­tis­tics. We are true “value add” to the tourism dol­lar!

If the new so­cial shar­ing plat­form is the new ac­com­mo­da­tion model, un­reg­u­lated as it cur­rently is for New­found­land and Labrador, then sign us up b’y, ’cause we can all use a fi­nan­cial break! The shed could use a lick a paint, I sup­pose.

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