25,000 Airbnb listings in Caribbean and now airlift’s starting to see an impact, says CHTA

25,000 Airbnb listings in Caribbean; lift being impacted

NEW YORK — The Caribbean has seen explosive growth in the short-term vacation home rental business and now the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) is calling for the region’s 32 National Hotel and Tourism Associations and governments to work together to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the rapid rise of the online vacation home rental industry and other sharing economy businesses fueled by companies like Airbnb and Uber.

The CHTA has released a Resource Guide to support the destination’s local efforts to create a level playing field through the taxation and regulation of the sector and its engagement in local public and private sector tourism development efforts.

Airbnb recorded more than 25,000 listings in the Caribbean as of February 2016 and is projecting significant growth this year. Destinations such as the D.R., Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Cancun, Martinique and Barbados feature the most listings on Airbnb, with continued growth projected throughout the entire region.

Saint Lucia expects a 17% year-over-year increase in stays in 2016. Aruba saw the number of visitors using non-traditional accommodations (private homes, apartments, villas, condominiums) in 2015 jump from 24% of visitors to 33%.

“As many governments throughout the world have experienced, the sharing economy made possible by these hosting platforms is happening whether or not we choose to embrace it and it presents new opportunities for the industry as well,” said CHTA President Karolin Troubetzkoy. “This leaves us with two options: we can allow it to develop as an untaxed and under-regulated market and lose out on tremendous opportunities or we can bring all the players to the table to work out solutions to the benefit of all concerned parties.

“CHTA has endeavoured to take a positive, constructive and balanced approach to the Guide, welcoming this rapidly developing accommodations sector but also calling for a fair play arrangement regarding taxation and some measure of standards beyond those applicable to residences. CHTA is not calling for there to be the same detailed and sometimes onerous regulatory requirements for hotels, but for a level of regulation beyond those which simply apply to residences. These are commercial enterprises regardless as to how one looks at it and the welfare of the guest and health, safety and reputation of the host property, the hosting platform, and the destination must be considered.”

The Guide provides the region’s public and private sector tourism stakeholders with a summary of the key issues surrounding the sharing economy, its impact on the tourism sector globally as well as regionally, and the opportunities presented by this emerging accommodations sector.

It offers solutions and new approaches for the Caribbean’s NHTAs and governments to consider when regulating and regularizing this emerging industry. It also sets the stage for engaging the emerging accommodations sector in organized public and private sector efforts to protect and grow the tourism industry, says Troubetzkoy.

The proliferation of Airbnb and other such hosting platforms is also beginning to affect airlift capacity to some destinations. In some cases, increased airline load factors have reduced the number of seats available for traditional hotel guests or have driven up the cost of air tickets. “Therefore it is important that we account for this growing accommodations sector in our research, product development, airlift development, and marketing efforts in order to plan accordingly,” said Troubetzkoy.

She notes that a recent study estimates that the 50 largest cities in the U.S. would have collected an additional $200 million in occupancy taxes in 2015 if taxation measures and supporting collection and enforcement protocols were in place.

“By embracing the sharing economy, we are able to hold non-traditional accommodation and service providers to a higher degree of responsibility than that which is typically expected for strictly residential use. This will help protect the reputation of a destination and the Caribbean brand as a whole.”

CHTA is supporting local efforts to bring together public and private sector stakeholders to review their existing laws and regulations pertaining to taxes, health and safety requirements and other standards, incorporating the necessary changes for the sharing economy. For more information, visit caribbeanhotelandtourism.com.