26 Sep 2018

Airbnb voices support for bed tax in Queenstown

8:26 pm on 26 September 2018

Airbnb has backed calls for a bed tax in Queenstown, saying it could help ease the cost of tourism on ratepayers.

Queenstown at sunset

Photo: 123RF

The accommodation broker made a submission on the Queenstown Lakes District Council's proposed district plan at a hearing yesterday.

About 148,000 inbound guests stayed in Airbnb accommodation in Queenstown last year, spending $130 million.

Brent Thomas, Airbnb's head of public policy in Australia and New Zealand, said a bed tax would be nothing new for the company, which already collected a tax in 500 different areas across the world.

"We really understand where the Queenstown Lakes District Council's coming from. They've got 33 people coming in for every one person who lives in that council area, and at the moment they can't get any contribution from those 33 people for infrastructure, for worker accommodation or for anything else," Mr Thomas said.

"We support a bed or a tourism tax that applies equally across the accommodation industry."

In other countries, the tax represented a small percentage added to the bill when people stayed overnight in commercial or residential accommodation.

Mr Thomas said it could be as little as $2 added to a $100 bill, which would go straight to council to pay for rising infrastructure demands.

No caption

Photo: AFP

Many areas in the Northern Hemisphere had picked up on a bed tax to ease the cost of tourism on residents - and it was generally well-received, he said.

"They've been proven in cities worldwide for decades, they're fair because people who share their homes more end up paying more and they're sustainable, they're really easy to implement. It's literally just adding a couple of percent to what a guest's costs are anyway."

However, Airbnb opposed many of the other visitor accommodation proposals in the district plan.

"They've ended up proposing some things that we don't really see in other parts of New Zealand or even across the ditch in Australia," Mr Thomas said.

They included capping the number of bed nights from 90 to 28 for residential short-term accommodation, limiting the number of guests who can stay and requiring registration.

In a memorandum prepared for the hearing, the council's Amy Bowbyes said registration would help the council monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of the rules on residential visitor accommodation, like Airbnb, and provide evidence for future district plan reviews.

The accommodation provisions sit within a broader framework of local and central government policies aimed to manage and address housing and rental affordability, she said.

Hearings on the district plan are scheduled for the rest of the week.

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