BTB meets with Airbnb to discuss impact to tourism sector

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Online marketplace and hospitality service, Airbnb allows people to lease or rent short-term lodging, such as vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hostel beds, and hotel rooms. After meeting several Caribbean government representatives in Barbados on Thursday, April 20th, Airbnb announced plans to expand tourism in the Caribbean, including Belize. On Tuesday, May 9th, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) hosted a conference with Airbnb representatives, where various stakeholders discussed the future of the overnight tourism sector, as well as guidelines that will help standardize the industry.
Although Airbnb does not own any of those properties, it serves as a commercial agent that receives a percentage of services fees from both guests and hosts. With more than four hundred hosts advertising properties within the country of Belize, the issue of market share has been brought to the forefront. While BTB aims to regulate the growing sector, Airbnb says this sector of the industry will be a positive one.
Airbnb’s Regional Director for Public Policy in Central America and the Caribbean, Shawn Sullivan, says Belize is a promising market. “Belize is not a big market for us, but we think we have significant potential to grow. The countries that are able to strike a collaborative relationship with governments are countries where we end up growing faster and are more successful. Our hope is to strike a deal with the Government of Belize on a range of issues that will allow us to continue to grow and drive more tourism to this country…It’s an open platform if people have a unique place that they want to put on our website they can do it and our hope is that working with stakeholders and the government, we’re going to be able to bring more tours here and create more revenue for the government,” said Sullivan.
In April, the Minister of Tourism of Belize and Civil Aviation, Manuel Heredia Jr, explained that one concern was the availability of official data, which would keep track of Airbnb’s impact on the accommodation sector, including the percentage of visitors who stay in Airbnb-listed properties. “If we work together and we have control over it, this will be something positive for the Caribbean and for Belize. My technical team will collaborate with Airbnb to make sure that we learn as much as possible in order to establish the proper regulations so this works in a beneficial way,” said Heredia.

An organized meeting by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) at the Hilton Barbados with Airbnb representative.
Right to left : Hugh Riley, Secretary General of CTO, Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.- Minster of Tourism & Civil aviation, Shawn Sullivan of Airbnb, Mrs. Karen Bevans – Director of Tourism & Sean Tang – Business Development Manager.
Presenter – Chris Lehane ,Head of Global Policy And Communications For AirBnB

Although Belize’s Hotel Association believes that Airbnb can have a negative impact in the industry, Sullivan says that the company’s intent is to cooperate with the Government of Belize. “We are willing to collect and remit taxes on behalf of our hosts. So the same applicable tax rates that hotels face here, we would apply that to our hosts to help level the playing field. We are also willing to help with the government and stakeholders to figure out what would be an appropriate type of regulation for small business people, which describes our hosts. They are people that have one or two homes that they would like to rent out, and we think that working with them, and working with the government, we should be able to strike a balance that makes everyone happy. And in general, what we’ve found is that when Airbnb starts growing in a market, we grow tourism by thirty percent, so that also benefits the hotels as well,” said Sullivan.
Meanwhile, BTB is planning to review Airbnb’s hosts to ensure that they are compliant with the country’s hotel, hospitality laws, and standards. BTB is also planning to ensure that mini-hoteliers are properly taxed and regulated in a similar manner as the resort owners and hoteliers.
For more information on the Belize Tourism Board, please contact 227-2420, or visit their website at: www.belizetourismboard.com

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