With close to 2,000 Airbnb proprieties listed in The Bahamas, with at least 150 existing in New Providence alone, President of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Carlton Russell recently called for the budding business to be regulated, although he said he believes the major hotels and the virtual accommodations can co-exist.
“Right now they are getting a free ride as far as regulations are concerned,” Russell said.
“There is room in this economic pie for us all but, I believe they need to be taxed or levied to share in this marketplace … One of the things that we also have to be concerned about is quality or standards.
“We need to ensure that the accommodations where the guests are staying, are up to par so there isn’t a negative on our overall tourism product.”
Those who participate in the business however, disagree, noting that the virtual component allows guests to participate as they are able to give their reviews online, as well as Airbnb hosts are able to do the same.
Donny Myers, who rents a room in his home in Westridge Estates through Airbnb explained, that policies are already in place for quality assurance.
“Once your pictures of your location are uploaded, it is vetted,” Myers explained.
“Once a guest arrives they would have to long in to say that your location is as promised.
“This is a referral business, so if you don’t live up to that promise, you will not have additional guests and the business will not be profitable for you.”
The Tinker family in Fox Hill also runs an Airbnb from their homestead.
Lynden Tinker said they offer a truly Bahamian experience and have had scores of return guests. Locally, Airbnb averages around $45 per night.
Tinker said the booking agent has especially been beneficial for those in the Family Islands who flock to New Providence for essential services, but international guests he said, remain their top priority.
“The guests that we cater to don’t want to be stuck at a hotel property,” Tinker said.
“They want to be in the communities, experiences the culture, living the way we live or would have lived, and experiencing everything that is truly Bahamian.”
On this point, Russell agreed
“We are seeing a growing number of millennials who want more,” he said.
“They are not your hotel guests, but those who want the sights, smells sounds of your culture… while regulation for Airbnb is needed… there is definitely a market for it here. The shared economies will allow us to collaborate on a number of occasions through various ventures.”
Regulated or not, those that participate in Airbnb say the budding venture is here to stay.
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Airbnb signed an agreement in August 2017, to cooperate on tourism promotion, share aggregated data and start a dialogue about industry-related laws and the potential collection and remission of applicable taxes on behalf of local hosts.
At the time of the signing, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said, “As the leading tourism authority in the country, the Ministry of Tourism acknowledges the reality of vacation home rentals, which provide alternative guest accommodations to traditional hotels.”
“In acknowledging this reality and seeking to manage and shape it for the benefit of all stakeholders involved, the Ministry has sought out partnership with Airbnb, a key player in the global home sharing economy.”
Airbnb also announced at the time that it is collaborating with an increasing number of governments in the Caribbean,as the region acknowledges the growing importance of home sharing to the local economy, and how home sharing democratizes tourism, spreading the benefits more widely to residents across communities, rather than consolidate the benefits in highly touristed areas.
This company said the agreement with The Bahamas was its 10th in the Caribbean and pointed out that there are 1,900 active listings on the Airbnb platform, with a typical host earnings about $6,000, annually.
At the time, the company said the number of guest arrivals to the islands in the previous 12 months had grown by 95 percent, with those visitors staying an average of about five nights.