AT YEAR’S END, WHO IS THE BIG WINNER – AIRBNB, EXPEDIA?
“The WA Labor and Liberal parties have joined forces to set up a parliamentary inquiry into regulation of the state's short-stay accommodation industry. Tension has erupted between owners of licensed short-stay businesses…and unlicensed, backyard operators who advertise through websites such as Airbnb.” Sound familiar? We have written to colleagues in Western Australia flagging with them that back in January 2017 the WA Government entered into a ‘global deal with Expedia’. Interestingly, this news has been removed from Tourism WA’s Government website.
In September 2015 the NSW Parliament referred the Adequacy of regulation of short-term holiday letting in New South Wales to a Parliamentary Inquiry. The Terms of Reference were straightforward. During hearings, NSW Hearing Committee Members frequently moved with great gusto and slaps on backs to personally welcome short-term rental operators into the meeting room. One phrase was oft repeated on the record by the MPs: “Short-Term Rentals are here to stay.” To suggest that the process resembled a ‘stitch-up-from-the-start’ in favour of the short-term rental operators could be considered an understatement. Transcripts show that the Terms of Reference received little-to-no due diligence.
One glaring omission during the whole 3+-year process here in NSW is the failure by any Member of the NSW Government to disclose that in August of 2015, a month before the matter of short-term rentals was referred to a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry, Destination NSW – an official arm of the NSW Government - teamed up with Expedia. That partnership remains in place today, Destination NSW’s Annual Report 2017-2018 making repeated reference to the links with Expedia Inc’s brands, including but not limited to HomeAway, Hotels.com, Trivago, and Wotif.com.
With no regard to NSW case law, Federal/State/Local Government Legislation or Coronial Reports, Destination NSW plus National Parks NSW’s websites facilitate direct access to thousands of residential properties for use as short-term tourist/visitor rentals, not only via portals to Expedia’s brands, but Airbnb, Booking.com and many others as well.
NSW Residents Groups have been sidelined without financial compensation from the NSW Government’s review process. Small Business Owners have sought assistance from the NSW Small Business Commissioner, however it appears that no assistance is forthcoming. And in a disturbing ‘world’s first’, Tourism Accommodation Australia teamed up with Expedia/(Stayz)/HomeAway and proceeded to volunteer our homes to Parliament as short-term rentals.
NSW Small Business Minister John Barilaro has never so much as mentioned short-term rentals in Parliament. John Barilaro’s short-term rental - Dungowan Estate - is currently “74% full” for January. At $2,832.10/night, the estimated turnover for Barilaro on his $5 million Estate for the first month of 2019 will be around $65,000. And since late 2017 Mr Barilaro can claim another $1.25 million Sydney property amongst his real estate portfolio.
How does a Minister for Small Business/Deputy Premier – and for that matter, the Minister for Tourism Adam Marshall – stay absolutely silent on Airbnb and Expedia when there is global data available and pushback against these platforms’ effects? The impacts on housing availability and affordability and neighbours’ home lives plus the viability of so very many accredited Accommodation Providers - those who contribute by way of commercial rates and taxes on all facets of their operations – are known. Instead, our NSW Ministers present to us Reports commissioned, paid for and volunteered to Parliament by Airbnb and Expedia.
It seems clear that the Government’s review process has been conflicted all along.
Airbnb listings across Sydney continue to increase – 36,660+ homes lost. Big Winners? The likes of John Barilaro, Sabrina Behunin, Aymeric Maudous, Rowan Legg, Don Binkley, Lisa Petersen, Monique Eyles, etc, and of course the offshore, foreign-owned, multi-billion dollar Airbnb, Expedia and Booking.com.
Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones People before Profits
Neighbours not Strangers