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Substantial growth in Airbnb supply and demand in WA: new report

Media release

The number of Airbnb hosts in Western Australia has increased by more than 50 per cent in the past year to more than 8100 listings, a new report by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) shows.

The report, The Impact of Airbnb on WA’s Tourism Industry, examined the growth and impact of Airbnb in WA, where tourism is increasingly considered an alternative development perspective in the State’s slowing, resource-dependent economy.

Report author Associate Professor Christof Pforr, from the School of Marketing at Curtin Business School, said Airbnb was one of the most disruptive developments in tourism of the past decade.

He said the report found a mixed response to Airbnb among tourism stakeholders who could see both the potential in opening up new tourism opportunities in WA as well as the threat to the conventional accommodation sector.

“The report shows that Airbnb is becoming an increasingly visible reality for the State’s tourism sector with about 8000 listings and 6000 hosts. Today, about 25 per cent of WA’s room capacity is provided via the online platform with about six per cent of WA’s international overnight visitor stays generated by Airbnb last year,” Associate Professor Pforr said.

“Although WA’s Airbnb supply is spread across the State, popular hotspots included riverside and seaside suburbs in Perth and Fremantle, as well as Margaret River and Busselton in the South-West. In comparison to single rooms generally dominating the conventional accommodation sector, entire homes and apartments dominate Airbnb offerings in WA, with houses clearly the more common type of accommodation on offer.

“Even though the monthly earnings of WA’s Airbnb hosts total more than $4.5 million, this report shows most Airbnb activities seem to take place privately, or occasionally, with more than 80 per cent apparently being single listings, or one listing per host, and occupancy rates at or below 20 per cent on average.”

Co-investigator Dr Michael Volgger, also from Curtin’s School of Marketing, said Airbnb holidaymakers and guests differed from traditional WA visitors on some features, including the locations they were visiting from, who they travelled with and where they visited while here.

“According to our data, tourists from Singapore and Malaysia accounted for almost half of all Airbnb users in WA in 2015. Airbnb guests also have an above average tendency to visit wine regions such as Margaret River and the Swan Valley and they tend to be younger and travel more frequently as couples, families or together with friends and relatives,” Dr Volgger said.

Associate Professor Pforr said the report provided a suite of potential policy responses as a guide for decision-makers, based on nine international case studies from London, New York, San Francisco, Barcelona, Rome, Berlin, Hong Kong, Amsterdam and Singapore.

“Many of the tourism stakeholders interviewed based their opinions about Airbnb mainly on anecdotal information. However, the overwhelming feedback was that they are seeking clear rules that govern the sharing economy based on factual evidence,” he said.

“This report works to close the existing knowledge gap on Airbnb and offers a range of potential policy responses that have already been trialled elsewhere, ranging from banning short-term residential leases and restricting the number of days allowed to a more proactive approach of signing agreements with Airbnb.

“However, it should be noted that any decision by governments to initiate policy or regulatory responses to the Airbnb phenomenon need to be made in light of the specific local context.”

Key findings from the report include:

Airbnb Supply in WA

· Airbnb is an increasingly noticeable reality in WA tourism.

· WA’s Airbnb supply consists of more than 8,000 listings (March 2017).

· About 25 per cent of WA’s room capacity is supplied by Airbnb.

· Airbnb supply is growing at about four per cent per month (2016).

· Indicators suggest that WA’s Airbnb supply remains mainly in the ‘private’ (occasional) realm.

· Monthly earnings of WA’s Airbnb hosts in total exceed AUD $4.5 million.

Airbnb Demand in WA

· About six per cent of WA’s international overnight stays are generated by Airbnb (2016).

· About 10 per cent of WA’s international holidaymakers are Airbnb users (2016).

· Airbnb demand (international visitors) is growing at a rate of more than 100 per cent per year (2015-2016).

· Airbnb guests appear to differ from other guests, as do Airbnb holidaymakers.

· 67 per cent of all international Airbnb users in WA are holidaymakers (2015).

· Airbnb users differ in their distribution regarding source markets: Visitors from Singapore and Malaysia account for 47 per cent of all Airbnb users in WA (2015).

· International Airbnb users have an above average tendency to visit wine regions such as Margaret River and the Swan Valley.

· Airbnb users often travel as couples, families or together with friends and relatives.

Stakeholder Perceptions

· WA stakeholders hold concerns over, but also see opportunities in Airbnb.

· Perceived benefits include additional income and competition, distribution advantages for regional areas, global reach of the platform and flexibility in supply.

· Perceived concerns include neighbourhood amenity issues, the need for monitoring and information, safety and liability, tax avoidance and impacts on investment models.

· Stakeholders demand more robust and accessible data and call for decisive leadership in governing the sharing economy.

The full report can be viewed here: http://bcec.edu.au/publications/the-impact-of-airbnb-on-was-tourism-industry.