Reduce accommodation regulation, don't increase it: Richard Colbeck

Contributions: How the short term rental market's two biggest players, Airbnb and Stayz, impacted Tasmania's economy in the last year.
Contributions: How the short term rental market's two biggest players, Airbnb and Stayz, impacted Tasmania's economy in the last year.

Former federal tourism minister Richard Colbeck says he is “bemused” by a motion put forward at City of Launceston council to investigate its ability to regulate Airbnb, Stayz and other short-term accommodation facilities.

Mr Colbeck has been consulting privately with Stayz on both a state and national level.

He said attempting to regulate the innovation of the short-term accommodation industry was unnecessary and risked stifling innovation, as well as discouraging tourism in the region.

City of Launceston Alderman Darren Alexander put forward the notice of motion, to be considered in Monday’s council meeting, asking the council to investigate its ability to administer regulation of Airbnb, Stayz and similar accommodation places.

Ald Alexander questioned whether the short-term rental market might discourage the larger traditional hotel sector from investing in the region.

Ald Alexander was contacted for comment on Friday.

New state regulations came into effect in July to regulate the short-term rental sector, reducing the amount of red tape people seeking to share their homes have to work through.

“Why is the instinct always to regulate up, when there is an opportunity to actually de-regulate some of the traditional sector?” Mr Colbeck said.

“What you’re effectively doing is stifling innovation.”

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Mr Colbeck said the impact of the short-term rental accommodation sector on the traditional accommodation sector generated positive growth. He pointed to the rise of cheap airfares growing the airline economy and encouraging more people to fly as an example of a similar innovation growing the tourism economy.

A Deloitte report showed Airbnb brought in a contribution of $55 million to Tasmania’s gross state product, and almost 600 jobs in 2015-2016. 

Across the state nearly 125,000 people stayed at Airbnbs through the year, spending $86 million during their visits.

Stayz visitors contributed nearly $22.1 million to the economy.

Rather than adding extra regulation at a local government level to the Airbnb sector, Mr Colbeck said it would be smarter for the large traditional sector, such as hotels and motels, to push for a red tape reduction to be in line with the state’s short-term accommodation regulation.

“I was a bit bemused that here we have from Launceston – only a matter of weeks really since new regulatory framework came into place here in Tassie – that both the STR sector and local government participated in, there’s proposals to add yet another layer of red tape,” he said.