File picture: Matt Alexander/PA
File picture: Matt Alexander/PA

Airbnbs come under fire for 'killing' Mother City businesses

By Marvin Charles Time of article published Dec 27, 2019

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Cape Town – Despite a large influx of tourists to the Mother City over the course of this holiday season, guest house and lodge owners said their businesses are being strangled to death by the Airbnb phenomenon.

Several guest-house owners who spoke to the Cape Argus have all said that the Airbnb industry is hurting their business, and they would be forced to shut down should this continue.

The owner of the Jambo Guesthouse in Green Point, Barry Thomas, said: “We have had a very grim two years. We have a 50% drop in occupancy... 

"The main problem is the Airbnb industry. In Sea Point alone there are about 18 Airbnbs.”

Thomas said his establishment had been operating for more than 24 years, and municipal taxes had risen continuously throughout this period.

“We pay a lot of rates and taxes. Airbnbs don’t pay these rates; they don’t pay commercial rates, or have to worry about being compliant. In the meantime, we are suffering and they are making a killing,’ he said.

Airbnb has become the fastest-growing online accommodation platform in the world since it launched in 2009.

It is an online portal that allows people to rent their properties or spare guest rooms.

Much like the dispute that has arisen between ride-sharing app Uber and the metered taxi industry, Airbnb has come under fire from hotels and traditional bed-and-breakfasts.

The owner of the Southern Comfort Guesthouse in Oranjezicht, Maya Bremridge, said: “We feel the industry has taken a huge knock from Airbnbs. It has an impact on everyone; we pay our staff, and if we do not get any bookings it has an impact on [them] and their well-being.

“I do understand that people are using it to pay off their bonds, but sometimes you have to play by the rules. It cannot continue like this into the new year.”

The owner of the Noordhoek Wild Rose Country Lodge, Michael Eecks, said he bought his establishment back in 1996. It is surrounded by beautiful ocean and mountain views.

“It’s getting very bad, our books do not look good. It’s very bad for business at this time. We’ve had to lay off staff and we have no guests at all.

“Airbnbs not being regulated is criminal, and its insane because they are not abiding by the rules,” he said.

Earlier this year, the department of tourism bowed to pressure from the regulated hospitality industry to regulate Airbnbs.

In April, government tabled the Tourism Amendment Bill, which seeks to regulate short-term home rentals in terms of the Tourism Act. The amendment empowers the minister of tourism to lay down “thresholds” for the operation of Airbnbs in South Africa.

These could impose limits on how many nights guests are allowed to stay over, or how much income an Airbnb may earn.

Another aspect of the proposed new regulation is the determination of zones where Airbnbs are allowed to operate.The bill has not yet been passed into legislation.

The Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa), in conjunction with SA Tourism, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and other groups, have called for Airbnbs to be regulated.

Fedhasa chairperson Jeff Rosenberg said: “The major request... is that all accommodation providers should be subjected to the same regulations, which is currently not the case.”

@MarvinCharles17

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Cape Argus

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