111 Give us a break! | Barbados Today

Give us a break!

Airbnb hosts advocate for fairer deal

The over 1,000 Airbnb hosts in Barbados now have a voice to fight on their behalf for “fair” and “positive” legislation.

Founder of the Barbados Entrepreneurship & Tourism Association (BETA) Neeraj Vensimal said that organization, which was officially formed at the end of March, would be stepping forward to give its input on any legislation that would impact the home-sharing programme operators here.

Local hotel operators have been calling for tighter controls on the unregistered accommodation sector, including the increasingly lucrative Airbnb, saying they stood to “water down” the Barbados tourism product.

The Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) has since confirmed that new guidelines are being drafted to include regulation of the short-term rental programmes with a view to ensuring that the entire accommodation sector meet all minimum international standards.

However, as representatives of BETA prepare to meet with BTPA officials on Monday to put the association’s position on the table, Vensimal argued that any new regulation should take into consideration the performance of the overall housing market on the island.

As for the vexed issue of taxation, he said a proper assessment should first be carried out before any new levy was applied.

“Another thing we need to consider, these are private listings with each host earning only about US$5,000 in annual income,” he said, while making it clear that the grouping was not looking for any concessions.

Vensimal, who was addressing a press conference today at the Stream bar and restaurant in Worthing Christ Church said the organization was seeking to help create an enabling environment for Airbnb and other hosts.

“The reason we represent them is because they don’t have a platform or voice to get their message out. But that is not the main reason we represent them. The main reason we represent them because we all believe in the slogan, ‘Tourism is our business, let’s play our part’ and in our national motto Pride and Industry,” he said.

With close to three million listings in over 190 countries, Airbnb is the largest of the short-term rental programmes where people list their homes or apartments for easy online booking.

Vensimal gave the assurance that while BETA was yet to come up with its own set of standards and guidelines, the approximately 1,100 listings in Barbados were already operating at a higher standard than some local hotels, based on customer ratings.

He explained that Airbnb hosts averaged 4.7 out of five stars, based on scores from visitors who stayed at their properties, while 4.2 was the average score for hotels.

“It is really important to note that this deals with both product and hospitality,” he said.

In direct response to concerns that Airbnb was negatively affecting “brand Barbados”, Vensimal said that was simply not the case since all hosts could be considered “brand ambassadors”.

“If you are trying to protect the guests, the guests are rating us higher than hotels as it currently stands in the absence of any regulation,” he added. 

29 Responses to Give us a break!

  1. Franklyn Alleyne May 12, 2017 at 4:06 am

    Give them a break! Outside of property tax, land tax and utilities what else does the Gov’t expect to get out of this. Using Uber as a case study, senseless legislation can impede growth of the sharing economy in emerging markets. Why not just charge VAT but what is the legal basis? Never paid VAT when I rented my condo, just signed a lease and paid a deposit. Legislating for the sake of legislation would be bad for this business model, can’t stress that enough. People using Air BnB are essentially staying for BnB and have no intention at staying at Hilton or Crane. Government should tread carefully so as not to interfere with this growth in Barbados. Long term effects outweigh any short terms goals of BTA trying to bilk a company that is playing an active role in the Barbados market. How bout the BTA go after sites like Homeaway or VRBO? Can’t! The owners of those websites have no intentions of negotiating such. These guys at Air BnB should be commended.

    Reply
  2. Rawle Spooner
    Rawle Spooner May 12, 2017 at 6:28 am

    Big hotels and guest houses want no competition period that’s why they hollering and screaming so loudly.

    Reply
    • Michele Antoinette
      Michele Antoinette May 12, 2017 at 10:07 am

      My thoughts exactly. Uber here is next. Bajans hate competition but always complain about monopolies. Stupessssssssss

      Reply
    • Maxine Edwards May 14, 2017 at 5:47 am

      Rawle you hit the nail on the head. The government would be wise to tell the BHTA to grow up and get creative in how they attract new membership. It was the BHTA’s Mayers who made that absurd statement about “standards” within these pvt home accommodation sector a few weeks ago. How ironic, if they truly embraced the slogan Tourism is our business, let us play our part, they (BHTA) would have created a way to “welcome” this segment into their organization.

      Reply
  3. Frank White May 12, 2017 at 6:50 am

    The way how I see this, is these avaricious businesses want all the money for themselves and all the concessions from government but when they renovate their hotels and guest houses, all the furnishings comes from outside. They don’t spend a cent with the locals, why? The majority of that money would go to the joiners of the black community and as much as you from the black community would jump up and say otherwise and in the defense of the so called white community, no one from the so called white community would ever jump to the defense of anyone from the black community or support black owned businesses to the point of them becoming well off. These so called white people are just about themselves and always will be…

    Reply
    • Hewers of wood May 12, 2017 at 10:03 am

      Frank – well said

      Reply
    • Runner May 12, 2017 at 10:46 am

      @ Frank White

      Reply
  4. seagul May 12, 2017 at 7:15 am

    This freedom in the Caribbean is the freedom to be taken advantage of by government-supported plantation type hotels and vulture business. They have restricted and avoided many an independent black free entrepreneurial agenda. It is almost impossible in our market driven society to understand what can be done to fight this colonial economic mafia supremacy.
    In today’s world, no nation can hope to bring to its people the standard of living and material prosperity it seeks for them unless its total resources are enlisted in the struggle. Surely the Caribbean’s most valuable resources are her people and the intelligence, energy, devotion and ambition they constitute and represent. It’s not only the white people that are about themselves, it’s also the blacks with the white masks–that are running and they running away but they can’t run away from themselves….

    Reply
  5. KPayne May 12, 2017 at 7:31 am

    Just to clarify… Airbnb hosts average. 4.7 out of 5, based on scores from visitors who stayed at their properties, while 4.2 was the average score for hotels.

    Reply
  6. Marc May 12, 2017 at 8:45 am

    I believe there should be certain minimum standards for anyone renting accomodation to others, mainly with respect to health and safety. This should include operating and maintained smoke detectors and appliances. Also, annual inspections of gas, electrical and water supplies. Hotels and and registered Guest Houses are inspected and must meet certain requirements to maintain their license to operate, I don’t think it would be unrealistic for Airbnb operators to have to comply with such standards… in fact it would only serve to improve the business overall.

    Reply
  7. Peter May 12, 2017 at 9:31 am

    What exactly is Air BnB? Is it Airlift Bed and Breakfast? A tourism product marketed in a network style as is very popular in the UK and Europe and which has evolved worldwide? I am not debunking it. as it is very legitimate and it clearly identifies the fact that a young, thinking businessman who calls it an entrepreneurial effort, can prove that there are “many ways to skin a cat.” In this case, tourism is the cat. I am certain that these unregistered property owners and accommodation marketers will pay a fee or commission of sorts. small albeit, but it will add up. to Air BnB as the licensed and registered provider/ median of this service. This will evolve to small and medium size hotels as they will view it as a cheaper and more productive avenue. I know of a number of Canadians and Brits who have invested in Barbados and a few other Caribbean islands. In Barbados, they build their lavish, well appointed and located properties with duty free concessessions from fittings, furniture and even vehicles which are added to their package. they collect their payments directly in their hands overseas and authorize family or property care business to take care locally. Believe me, millions are made and they range from genuine holiday makers to prostitutes and even church groups. The Tourism Authority are trying to mend this leakage through a registration and possible taxation program where it can be deemed an illegal operation if not registration is not acquired hence that makes it an illegal operation because permission was not granted. The Indians have found yet another way to penetrate business operations here in Barbados. They are hotel owners and see this avenue to tap into that market which is repetitive but recommend others as a tried and trusted vacation to undertake and recommend themselves. Do you see the snowballing effect.?

    Reply
  8. Marc Egan
    Marc Egan May 12, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Scratching my head – in the last two years we have seen more visitors to http://www.marcopolobarbados.com and the accommodations chosen have been rooms of houses in The Crane area… the cost is right for starters but the personal attention of hosts and ability to share local knowledge of places to visit is invaluable – a great product so please don’t spoil it

    Reply
    • Maxine Edwards May 14, 2017 at 6:08 am

      Great advise Mark. Air BnB, Home Away, etc. provide guests who use local goods and services. They go to the supermarket, the eat out. Government, do not attempt to over regulate. Cost of managing is not cost effective. Spend that time and energy trying to recoup the VAT, NIS, PAYE, Land Tax and Income tax that the Hoteliers and other big business owes. BTPA, spend your energies trying to work with the agencies who are responsible for keeping Brand Barbados clean, train the immigration officers who are the first and last people who influence Brand Barbados to do their jobs without barking at people. Do the math, it is not worth it to go after the home accommodation sector. They are providing much needed stimulus for the economy.

      Reply
  9. Yvette Norgrove
    Yvette Norgrove May 12, 2017 at 10:00 am

    It continues to surprise me how shortsightedness and narrow self interest cloud the ability to see how ordinary Barbadians can become a driving force in the effort to grow and strengthen our tourism market share and to aid in bringing us out of the economic doldrums in which we find ourselves!

    Reply
  10. seagul May 12, 2017 at 10:04 am

    This freedom in the Caribbean is the freedom to be taken advantage of by government-supported plantation type hotels and vulture business??? We’re putting you on notice about further practices. They have restricted and avoided many an independent black free entrepreneurial agenda. It is almost impossible in our market driven society to understand what can be done to fight this colonial economic mafia supremacy.
    In today’s world, no nation can hope to bring to its people the standard of living and material prosperity it seeks for them unless its total resources are enlisted in the struggle. Surely the Caribbean’s most valuable resources are her people and the intelligence, energy, devotion and ambition they constitute and represent. It is to them that we must look for..

    Reply
  11. Sam Clarke May 12, 2017 at 10:32 am

    IF THEY ARE IN THE HOSPITALITY BUSINESS, THEN THEY MUST PAY THE SAME GOVERNMENT TAXES AS OTHER HOTELS , PERIOD.
    THERE IS A MAJOR PROBLEM IN TRYING TO HOUSE LOCAL BAJANS AND THESE TAKE BADLY NEEDED APARTMENTS OUT OF THE MARKET. THIS INCREASES THE PRICE OF RENTAL PROPERTIES AVAILABLE TO LOCALS.
    LOCALS FIRST.

    Reply
  12. Dario Greenidge
    Dario Greenidge May 12, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Air BnB allows for more people to afford barbados. Who has $2000 USD for a week at the Crane? When you can spent $80-125 USD a night and get a bed, clean place to stay and in some cases food

    Reply
  13. Carl Hunte
    Carl Hunte May 12, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    Reply
  14. Peter May 12, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Just as I werote this, they put it back up.

    Reply
  15. David Joseph May 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Do you need a break? I see this as a break-through! Congrats to you.

    Reply
  16. Simon Jackson May 12, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    How can Air bnb offerings “dilute” the Barbados product? The key thing attracting visitors to the Barbados Product, borne out again and again by visitor comments is “the people” – that is, all of us who live here, proud of what people see when they come here, and passionately wanting them to enjoy and return again. Privately owned properties, with owners who directly interact with the guests can only add to the value of our product? Ok – in any industry there will be a very small proportion who don’t hit the mark. This industry and the hotel industry won’t avoid that – but surely, to say that people coming to Barbados to stay in properties that are all about fundamental level interaction with locals – both owners and those living and owning businesses near the property – dilutes our product is missing the point, to such an extent that I wonder if the dilution referred to would be in the hotel sector’s profits? How about we extend the same duty-free status enjoyed by hotels to those people entrepreneurial enough to offer private properties for tourism rental – otherwise, these people’s profit’s sure going to be “diluted” ?

    Reply
  17. Quietly Observing May 12, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Government always touting small businesses/entrepreneurship and yet when people try to help themselves they try to put all kinds of stumbling blocks in their paths. Give them a break!! I have heard only good things about Airbnb. “Tourism is our business let’s play our part” is only applicable if you not trying to make some money to survive in this economy.

    Reply
  18. Veroniva Boyce
    Veroniva Boyce May 12, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Arm or Leg?

    Reply
  19. Andrew Simpson May 12, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    AirBnB seems to have a mechanism for ‘participating properties’ to be monitored and rated. I’m all for promoting standards and protecting neighboring properties but if the government gets into the act, any chances of people succeeding will be ruined.
    I hope we can have an Uber type program assist in the transport sector while we’re at it.
    Valid insurance would obviously be a prerequisite for the above.
    Who are the dominant owners of accommodations and minibuses/vans anyway?

    Reply
  20. Christine May 12, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    I am sure the hotel owners did not expect this response.Airbnb guests spend money on supporting a wide range of businesses in Barbados. Especially, the smaller vendors where there are no hotels close by.
    Income received by the hosts pays for maids, gardeners, swimming pool attendants etc .
    Furthermore, it’s not always the cost of staying in a hosts property compared to a hotel . Guests like the fact that hosts will sit with them give them the load down on where to go where to eat. The history of Barbados the people usually over a beer or rum and coke.
    Younger guests who don’t have much money will go home and spread the word about the wonderful time they had. Probably returning to the island many times and in the future.
    Airbnb should be encouraged as much as possible.
    With the state of the country our number one industry is tourism and should be embraced.

    Reply
  21. Greengiant May 12, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    Every sector wants a break, every investor wants incentives, we the working class wants more disposal income. Yet we expect transport for school children, the elderly, we expect state funded medical treatment, we expect state funded education at all levels and school meals as has been the case in previous decades. How can we continue as a people to enjoy these critical state contributions without a well structured tax collection system?

    The answer is first to have a government with the testicles to revamp our tax system to the benefit of all. All individuals spending money on vehicle repairs, home improvements of any kind, tailoring, dress making, land scaping, lawyers services, medical or dental services. All purchases of services should benefit on taxes once they’re supporting local service providers. These providers too will benefit once registered and will have receipt books provided by government with their I’D, NIS and other tax numbers where necessary. This is not about vat or having a tax threshold, this is about widening the tax net and making the PAYE concept functional. The reason our income tax and vat is so high, reducing our disposable income is simply because the ruling parties over the years have found it quite convenient for their professional partners and other associates to allow the working class carry the operational financial load of this country.

    I’m not singling out the legal fraternity here, but for example. Do we think a representative of an accused with wealth from ill gotten gain will thoroughly disclose a three figure sum paid in cash by the client? Just imagine how much revenue changes hands daily in this country without we the working class who are dependent on state funded services getting our share through an efficient tax system. No wonder every possible reason was used to delay the effective implementation of the Revenue Authority.

    While I’m not a supporter of the current administration, everything they have done, or tried to do can’t be wrong. The ministers of government, those of the opposition and us the citizens of this country attended the same schools, churches, sporting and social organizations. We drank the same water, ate the same foods, and we’re treated by the same medical personnel over the years. There’s not huge differences between us either, the simple issue is some of us have the courage to make the correct decisions even if we become unpopular while others prefer to be popular for making the wrong decisions. It’s therefore time for a party with, courage, vision, a caring approach and a new local tax structure that will ensure adequate revenue, support for local service providers, that will guarantee the required circulation of finances to revitalize our local economy. It’s Solutions time.

    Reply
  22. Jan Lyn May 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    As a proud Airbnb accommodation host, I can tell you that 97% of the FX I earn through Airbnb comes directly into Barbados via my bank account (Airbnb charges 3% commission). How many hoteliers can attest to that. I pay VAT on my earnings and I don’t benefit from the concessions that the big boy hoteliers enjoy. The hoteliers have a combined overall rating of 4.2 stars – we have 4.9 and this is based on reviews from the visitors who stayed in our homes. I have no problem with regulations, but it has to be on a level playing field which is definitely not the case at the moment. I will continue to give my guests a personal unique Bajan experience of our island and if the hoteliers can’t keep up with the changing needs of their guests, they shouldn’t blame me.

    Reply
  23. Zena waithe May 15, 2017 at 10:21 am

    ( air bnb host ) I would just like to point out that star ratings are going to be higher for the Airbnb review because of the personal touch afforded to the guest from the owner…during the time prior to arrival, guests are continuously contacting us asking questions about the property, the area, restaurants, taxis, car hire etc.
    They connect directly with one person, so a relationship builds.
    During their stay, that continues , with honest local recommendations for places to see and things to do. I spend a lot of time on this with my guests, but not so much that I am a nuisance . Again, this builds the relationship between the parties. At the end of their time here, when they review, it’s gonna be hard to be critical isn’t it, of someone who has offered so much to you in order to better your experience. The hotels cannot do this, they don’t have the staff to cover this on a personal level, so their experience remains more impersonal, which is what a certain kind of traveler prefers. My point is , that I don’t think too much store can be placed on the star review system, comparing hotels to private places…..there really is no comparison.

    Reply
  24. Suzanne Miller July 31, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    i am trying to reach someone at Barbados Entrepreneurship an Tourism Association. Anybody has a number for them

    Reply

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