Out of control

An out of control unregistered accommodation sector, including the increasingly lucrative Airbnb, will “water down” the Barbados tourism product, one hotelier has charged.

General Manager of Sugar Bay Barbados Beach Resort Morgan Seale believes these homestay programmes must be held to the same standards as the rest of the accommodation sector and regulation is the only way to achieve this.

General Manager of Sugar Bay Barbados Beach Resort Morgan Seale

“I think it is important to make sure that while we should cater to all markets and attempt a drive for them, that we do not water down the product or the experience by providing cheap accommodation. And one of our concerns at the moment, which we are insisting get the attention that is needed, is the Airbnb [short-term home rental] sector,” Seale told Barbados TODAY.

With over two million listings in 191 countries, Airbnb is the largest of these community marketplaces where people list their homes or apartments for easy online booking for short-term lodging.

These accommodations are normally much cheaper than hotels, and have grown in popularity in recent years, biting into the profits of the formal sector.

Hotelier have been lobbying for the regulation of these rental platform, and New York City has made it illegal for anyone to rent out a whole apartment on Airbnb for fewer than 30 days, after politicians and tenants’ rights groups complained the company had made it harder to find affordable housing in the city.

As the authorities here seek to introduce upgraded regulations for the accommodation sector –– with similar guidelines for restaurants and attractions –– in order to bring them in line with best practices and international standards, Seale made reference to a story in Barbados TODAY last week in which a Canadian couple complained of being cheated of their security deposit for accommodation booked online.

While no reference was made to Airbnb at the time, Seale suggested the property had been listed on the short-term home rental service’s platform.

“We are really quite keen to make sure that situations like what happen last week in the paper with an Airbnb host and guest does not happen on a regular basis because of the fact that it really does not do brand Barbados any good whatsoever. In fact, it is very detrimental to us because those stories go into to the press and they don’t discriminate between hotels and Airbnb, they just see that Barbados is a destination that perhaps is not what it used to be when they hear about rats, et cetera. And we cannot allow those situations to do our tourism industry, which is the main driver of our economy, harm,” he said.

Seale said in addition to the risks, the properties were not operating on a level playing field, thus hurting the formal accommodation sector.

This appears to be supported by Smith Travel Research (STR), the American company that tracks supply and demand data for multiple market sectors, including hotels.

According to STR, while the Caribbean reported increased arrivals, the hotel sector recorded a fall in occupancy, attributing this to the sharing economy, which includes the homestay programmes.

Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Rudy Grant confirmed that new guidelines were being drafted, to include regulation of the short-term rental programmes.

However, stating that the issue went far beyond Airbnb, Grant told Barbados TODAY it was critical that the entire accommodation sector be regulated to ensure they all meet minimum international standards.

“It is important that we take the necessary measures to ensure that we have the standards administered by the Barbados Tourism Product Authority, which is the competent authority dealing with those types of issues. It is really bigger than the Airbnb. It relates to having the appropriate regulation for unregistered accommodation,” Grant said.

“I think there is an urgent need for the regulations. Certainly the faster this is done the better it would be overall for Barbados, the brand Barbados we have to ensure that nothing is done to negatively impact,” the BHTA executive added. (MM)

5 Responses to Out of control

  1. Charmaine February 7, 2017 at 10:34 am

    A couple of comments:
    1) When Barbados needed room for World Cup, you asked us to make rooms and we did. (these rooms need to be kept filled and no official body is interested after the world cup so thank god for AIRBNB. We can also let them to local but if the tenant does not pay the rent , you have no recourse as our laws are not landlord friendly and no small claims court for quick action )
    2) The Homestay product cannot be judged like a hotel and The world knows that and a client knows that and further the client has gone to a homestay program because that is what they wanted , be it that they are staying long or they want a kitchen or a small private place i.e. was never a hotel guest anyway.
    3) There was no mention anywhere that the client that had to go to the police were AIRBNB guest
    4) One of the nice things about Barbados is that there are so many kinds of accommodation and that can only be a draw. The price point is what attracts a guest to a particular place and if that is what they want to spend they are going to spent that only, in Barbados or another island.
    5) We have empty seats coming to Barbados and the homestay guest fill these seats (some that are subsidized by our government so I would say at lease there is a paying body in them)
    6) All homestay accommodation have standards, the photo’s sell the produce and if the client is not happy they have the same rights to call the homestay company and leave as any hotel guest.
    7) You cannot compare Barbados to NYC, they have apartments that are rent controlled and if you put a homestay guest in a rent controlled apartment, that is wrong, it would be like doing a homestay in a government housing area. Also wrong .
    I could go on but I am sure that someone else has some other thoughts.

  2. Helicopter(8P) February 7, 2017 at 11:42 am

    The rat infestation,was years ago mostly controlled by the Sugar Cane Growers of Barbados and the Department of Agriculture now the Ministry of Agriculture! Yearly rat poisons were put out nation wide at around their breeding time to eradicate the pest now that Barbados has become a Tourist economy the Ministry of Tourism should fund an eradication project on the infestation of rats.

  3. DavyMac February 10, 2017 at 1:20 am

    The hotels need to up their game and offer better value at a better price. Competition is here, and yes the playing field is uneven but this is the disruptive economy we live in.
    AirBnB and the like are self regulating, bad reviews lead to no bookings in pretty short order – Competition and choice will ultimately lead to a better tourism product, and a larger and more profitable industry.

  4. Midas Spade February 10, 2017 at 7:19 am

    So because ppl aim to empower their communities and offer lodging in places that they own in a country they are borne from, you want to get rid of that economic boost to our locals? Why don’t you fight against the 75 dollar departure tax which deters visitors? Or the state of roads and the high increases in all costs across the board which makes visiting here so expensive that people need to go to airbnb because they can’t afford to book at sugarbay.com. How many commercials are distributed about Barbados and how many events are being planned over the year?

    Your forebearers made their money from our backs and now you’re looking to perpetuate that slavery? nah, you need to up your game. Your customer base isn’t the Airbnb crowd in the first place because Airbnb caters to a lower income visitor that wouldn’t be able to patronize your hotels anyways.

  5. Donild Trimp February 10, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Morgan Seale, you are spewing a bunch of donkey doo.

    Barbadians should be lining up to utilize the Airbnb platform. It is good for the ordinary homeowner who otherwise would be scraping to make ends meet.

    Airbnb does not cater to your crowd. Greed seems to be your main motivation.

    Every visitor to Barbados cannot afford the exorbitant prices charged by Hotels in Barbados.


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