Australia’s peak accommodation organisation, Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) has called the Qantas partnership with Airbnb, which offers frequent flyer points to customers who book through the airline’s website, “a slap in the face” to the sector.
TAA CEO Carol Giuseppi said the national carrier made an unprecedented decision to back an unregulated operator over its traditional partners.
“Qantas should understand the importance of working with partners who fully support and contribute to the tourism industry and meet all their regulatory requirements,” she said.
“These unregulated short-term accommodation operators do not have in place the consumer safety and community amenity regulations and insurances that apply to regulated operators, nor do they pay the requisite fees and taxes. This is why so many overseas jurisdictions are regulating to prevent even more non-resident apartments and houses being taken off the long-term rental market and sold as unregulated short-term accommodation.”
Giuseppi argued that globally, nations and cities are being forced to regulate businesses like San Francisco-based Airbnb, which is valued at $US30 billion, as it moves into commercial competition without the same regulatory framework as hotels, serviced apartments and even traditional B&B homes.
The City of Sydney has been grappling with the issue after listings in the metropolitan area exploded over the past two years, passing the 10,000 mark 12 months ago. Under current planning laws, tourist and visitor accommodation is not allowed in residential zones, and residential and tourist accommodation in the same building must be on separate floors.
The NSW government is currently considering a new regulatory framework to deal with conflicts between residents and visitors, especially in apartment blocks.
Earlier this year, a couple who rented an apartment in Melbourne, then listed it on Airbnb, were evicted after Victoria’s Supreme Court ruled they had breached their lease.
Giuseppi said in Sydney and Melbourne, Inside Airbnb has estimated up to 61% of listings are for entire homes or apartments.
“These online operators have morphed from their original idea of providing ‘share’ accommodation to becoming fully fledged commercial property operations where no sharing is involved,” she said.
“If these businesses want to operate in the commercial short-term accommodation market then they need to abide by the regulations of other commercial operators.”
Consumer watchdog the ACCC is also investigating whether customer reviews for “sharing economy” companies such as Uber and Airbnb are legitimate as part of an investigation into the sector and whether the testimonials complay with Australian Consumer Law.
Yesterday’s announcement by Qantas is being seen by some as an attempt by the airline to sure up its customer base, which previously booked accommodation via its website, adding to the company’s bottom line via commissions, but is now drifting away to competitors such as Airbnb. The deal is a major win for Airbnb, introducing it to the airline’s 11.4 million frequent flyer members.
But Giuseppi says the partnership is premature for a company that prides itself on its rigorous approach to safety and compliance.
“Until that is the case, we call on tourism operators like Qantas to only deal with legitimate accommodation partners who adhere to the same regulatory framework as they do,” she said.
In response, a Qantas spokesperson told Business Insider “hotel bookings remain a very important part of what we offer, but we know Airbnb is something a lot of our customers like using and we think it’s important to give them the choice”.
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