Tourism Golden AGM includes a discussion about Airbnb

Tourism Golden held its AGM on May 5 at the Holiday Inn and guest speaker Walt Judas, the CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C.

Tourism Golden held its AGM on May 5 at the Holiday Inn and guest speaker Walt Judas, the CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. (TIABC) addressed a significant concern facing the industry in Golden and across the province in a presentation to industry stakeholders and invited guests.

The explosion of the sharing economy and unlicensed accommodation has affected hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts across the province as industry and government officials grapple with various means of addressing this concern.

Much of the cause for concern comes from Airbnb, an international website that allows individuals to list and rent out lodging, with an estimated 10,000 units across the province.

A search on the Airbnb website reveals 77 short-term rental places in Golden and area, from entire homes to private rooms within a house.

This is problematic, not only for local accommodation operators who are seeing potential clients stay elsewhere, but also for tourism bodies like Tourism Golden, which receives funds from a two per cent tax from all stays at licensed accommodators.

“It has created businesses that fall through the cracks of regulation and taxation,” said Lynn Moffat, president of Tourism Golden. “They’re currently unregulated and making no contribution to taxes but fully benefitting from the marketing of DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations).”

Currently, an individual can avoid licensing and sales taxation if they rent less than five units in the province, but Judas says that many in the Lower Mainland are skirting around those regulations.

A unit can range from a single room to an entire house, but it must be rented as one in order for it to be considered just a single unit.

Airbnb’s model is in contrast to other booking sites like Expedia and Travelocity, who charge customers the appropriate sales taxes.

“What’s the difference? You’re just offering a different type of accommodation but what you’re not doing is paying the taxes,” Judas said.

TIABC is looking at a variety of recommendations for proper regulation, including the restriction of nightly private room rentals as a percentage of the overall rental accommodation pool, or tax breaks for landlords that enter into long-term rental agreements.

“We’re looking at all possible solutions, even in the interim,” Judas said.

In late March, the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce submitted a policy for consideration at the B.C. Chamber’s AGM on May 29 that would oversee regulation and taxation of short-term room rentals.