Airbnb is lobbying for a national policy on regulation of New Zealand’s short-stay accommodation sector – with a bed tax at its core.
The short-stay giant has released a ‘proposed national regulatory toolkit’ which advocates a data sharing framework to ensure easier tax and health and safety compliance, a code of conduct for hosts and guests, and a sliding scale of regulation based on the individual nature of each accom operation.
It also advocates a national visitor levy which would see properties subject to a percentage tax for each hosted guest night, a system it describes as a “fair, proven and sustainable” way for local councils to raise revenue.
Airbnb’s head of public policy for Australia and New Zealand, Derek Nolan, says the plan follows discussions with Queenstown mayor Jim Boult about his bed tax initiative, a model the region’s hotel industry has fought vigorously against through legal channels and intense government lobbying.
“He convinced us of the need for the contribution of the tourism accommodation sector in areas where tourism really plays a significant role in infrastructure,” Nolan said.
“We are committed to working collaboratively with government to implement fair and sensible
rules that get the balance right and ensure tourism continues growing sustainably into the future
for the benefit of all Kiwis.”
Tourism Industry Aotearoa says that while it supports the call for a national approach to regulating the peer-to-peer accommodation, it does not “see any need” for a bed tax element.
“TIA does not support a bed tax because it only targets one tourism sector – accommodation providers – and where it can be passed on, it only reaches some visitors,” said chief executive Chris Roberts.
“A majority of domestic and many overseas visitors do not pay for a night’s accommodation, preferring to stay with friends and family instead.”
Hospitality NZ also welcomes Airbnb’s overtures on creating a national policy, but CEO Julie White says the organisation “continues to advocate against” the bed tax idea.
She said: “We invite Airbnb to collaborate with the sector and encourage them to contribute directly to the New Zealand economy by paying taxes from the revenue earned in New Zealand but take offshore.
“It is important that we create a sustainable accommodation sector that is fair, an even playing field once that does not compromise the safety of guest from a sliding scale and creates choice for consumers.”
New Zealand Hotel Owners Association executive director, Amy Robens, stressed the need for national regulation to ensure “a level playing field” on tax and health and safety compliance. But she said the organisation “remains strongly opposed to bed taxes, or any form of targeted rate on commercial accommodation providers”.
“The sector is taxed more heavily than any other foreign exchange earning industry and hotel owners are already paying more than their fair share,” she said.
Eacham Curry, Bookabach corporate affairs director, says while the organisation appreciates the pressures on local government to achieve regulation for the sector, policy should be driven by central government.
“Bookabach advocates for national regulation that contains a simple registration scheme for all short-term rental listings, a code of conduct that is backed by a strikes-based disciplinary regime, and an industry body to adjudicate compliance with the code of conduct,” he said.
“Without action by the central government, we fear bach owners will be left stranded to deal with the vagaries of local government boundaries and an increasing number of councils changing rules on a whim.
“This will create uncertainty for our sector and make it harder for the mums and dads who own baches to plan for the future.
“Our three-pronged regulatory solution will ensure tourism remains an engine room of the economy, improve neighbourhood amenity and help governments make more-informed decisions about urban planning.”
Airbnb is calling for the creation of a short-term rental accommodation (STRA) working group that includes central and local governments and industry stakeholders.