MRBTA staff warned of Airtasker
The Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association has cautioned two of its staff for seeking work as unlicensed tour operators amid growing concern about the rise of Airtasker across the Capes region.
Airtasker, described as the “Airbnb for small jobs”, is facing scrutiny by WA’s Department of Transport, and Capes police have recently intervened in cases in which drivers in Margaret River, Dunsborough and Busselton lacked the F-class licences needed to carry commercial passengers.
Tour operators, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals, lashed the MRBTA for undercutting members in the tour business, and said Airtasker itself needed greater regulation to avoid future accidents for which drivers could face legal action.
“Very few tour companies are even aware this is going on online,” the operator said in relation to the rise of Airtasker in the Capes.
“I’m sure some local business have gone bankrupt without ever knowing this is where the work had gone.”
The site now offered dedicated pages for localities across the Capes, he said. “A few searchengine optimisation tricks, use the word ‘driver’ a lot, and they rank page one for driving services,” he said. “(Airtasker has) intentionally targeted selling driving services to certain suburbs and do not request any info from drivers other than a phone number/email.”
MRBTA co-chief executive Steve Harrison said senior managers had recently become aware two staff members had responded to driving requests on Airtasker.
“As soon as it was explained to them that this was counter to MRBTA policy and not in the interests of our members, these staff apologised and retracted the offers immediately,” he said.
“These staff were unaware that, had they provided such services, they could have been acting illegally and potentially been subject to significant fines.” MRBTA had also recently reached out to tour operators asking how the association could help them “in an increasingly complex business landscape” created by Airtasker and ridesharing services.
“Digital platforms have made it easier for visitors to access a range of driving services, but also increased the risk of such services being provided by drivers without the required authorisations and insurance,” Mr Harrison said.
“In addition to warning visitors of the risks of choosing unlicensed driving services, MRBTA believes it is crucial to share positive messages with visitors to promote travelling with fully licensed, accredited tour operators as the safest and most enjoyable way to discover the Margaret River region.” The Department of Transport did not respond to inquiries, but WA Police confirmed officers had acted on drivers without F-class licences.
“In the event police identify a person driving without the appropriate class of driver’s licence, they will be issued the relevant traffic infringement notice or charge, and if the matter relates to the lack of an ‘F’ extension/endorsement, it will also be referred to the Department of Transport for further review and assessment,” a spokesman said. Airtasker was contacted for comment.