Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Airbnb a regulatory challenge

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Rotorua Association of Motels chairwoman Fiona Suurenbroek.
Rotorua Association of Motels chairwoman Fiona Suurenbroek.

An increasing number of Rotorua people are cashing in on the trend of renting out spare rooms on Airbnb - but the local motel association says there are concerns around the lack of regulation around the increasingly popular website.

More than 260 Rotorua rooms are listed on the website, ranging from $15 a night to more than $1000. The site allows residents to offer their rooms, sleepouts or empty homes to travellers.

But Rotorua Association of Motels chairwoman Fiona Suurenbroek said there was concern websites such as Airbnb had no regulatory requirements.

"As commercial accommodation providers we are subject to many regulatory requirements including, but not limited to, monthly building checks and annual building warrant of fitness, we have a duty of care to ensure that our properties are maintained at a certain standard and we are subject to commercial rates of which these properties are not. It would be great if we were all on a level playing field," she said.

"We have been privy to some horror stories of guests who have ended up in our motels due to their Airbnb experience so our advice is to always do your homework for your holiday and accommodation experience."

Destination Rotorua chief executive Mark Rawson said the growth of sites like Airbnb was a global phenomenon.

"What is clear is that Airbnb has not only challenged how customers purchase accommodation, but also how they choose to experience their stay."

He said it had both upsides and downsides with positives including the additional capacity for Rotorua, especially at peak times of the year, which meant people didn't have to postpone or cancel visits.

"On the downside, this has led to an uneven playing field that exists between the more traditional, commercially regulated supplier (such as a hotel, motel, backpacker) versus a non-commercial, bach, holiday and/or private home owner/host."

He said there were times of the year when the market could and did sustain both.

At other times like the low and shoulder seasons he said the view could "rightfully be taken" that people staying in that sort of accommodation meant fewer people staying in commercially regulated lodging.

Mr Rawson said concerns relating to regulating the sector were not new, with a number of sectors in the commercially regulated supply chain having raised issues at both a local and national level.

Airbnb's New Zealand country manager Sam McDonagh said the company was constantly innovating and investing in new programmes and services that helped make hosts and guests safer. That included a 250-person "trust and safety team" which was available around the world.

He said the average income of an Airbnb host in New Zealand was about $7100.

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