BTA encourages online vacation rentals
It is hoped that a wide cross section of Bermuda residents will consider listing a short-term or vacation rental through the Airbnb online site.
This follows the signing of an agreement between the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Airbnb, designed to promote the island to a wider audience of leisure and group travellers.
“This levels the playing field. It appeals to the next generation of visitor, it is complementary to the hotels and it gets homeowners involved,” said Kevin Dallas, chief executive officer of the BTA.
Airbnb will send community organisers to the island, possibly as soon as this month, to run workshops that will explain the Airbnb platform, how users can market themselves on the platform, and how they can become a “good”, or even a “super” host.
The US-based company is an online service that acts as a marketplace where homeowners can advertise vacation accommodation, such as rooms, apartments and homes. Airbnb receives a percentage service fee from the bookings, while users can leave reviews of the accommodation.
The company was formed nine years ago, and has grown rapidly. It has more than three million lodgings listed globally, and an estimated 150 million users.
In Bermuda, the number of listings is still relatively small, estimated to be about 250.
The BTA and Airbnb started discussions in November, and one outcome they hope to achieve is an increase in the number of Bermuda properties listed.
“There should be far more,” said Mr Dallas. He wants to see more homeowners involved and “building on our legacy of hospitality”.
He said Airbnb will work with the BTA to encourage residents across the entire cross section of society to consider listing some accommodation.
A typical host is said to earn $14,900 per year through Airbnb bookings.
The service is particularly popular with younger, experienced and adventure travellers, a demographic the BTA is keen to attract.
Mr Dallas does not believe the initiative will have a substantial impact on hotels and guesthouses. He sees growth in Airbnb in Bermuda as likely to be complementary to the island’s existing vacation sector, with potential for visitors using one type of accommodation to make a repeat visit and try another type.
When asked if the BTA is planning to raise funds by imposing a fee on Airbnb accommodations, Mr Dallas said: “The BTA position has long been that all visitors should pay the visitor’s fee. That is paid by the visitor, not by the hotels or the homeowners.”
He pointed out that if the BTA was simply looking for a new revenue source, the amount raised from visitor fees from Airbnb accommodation users would only be to a tiny fraction of the authority’s budget.
Mr Dallas said the agreement with Airbnb was about “levelling the playing field” and promoting the island as a destination.
Airbnb is soon to launch a magazine, and Mr Dallas said the BTA would look at advertising opportunities.
He said the link-up also “gives us Airbnb as an adviser to the government as it works through regulations” in that sector of the tourism marketplace.
In a statement, the BTA said: “The partnership will create a framework that opens a dialogue between the Bermuda Government and Airbnb to discuss topical industry matters, including marketing and regulation.”
It also said the strategy is likely to grow visitor spending and experience, the volume of leisure and group visitors to Bermuda, and nurture an environment for job creation.
Mr Dallas said: “Out here, Bermudians have been welcoming travellers into our homes for many decades.
“Partnering with an innovative brand like Airbnb enables us to build on our legacy of legendary hospitality, reach a new generation of travellers and expand opportunities for Bermudian homeowners to participate in the tourism economy.”
Shawn Sullivan, Airbnb’s representative for the Caribbean and Central America, said: “Today’s agreement with Bermuda is a great example of how local authorities and the private sector can work together to achieve mutually desired goals.
“Bermuda is an important and growing market for Airbnb and we are very excited to be working with the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Bermuda Government to help grow sustainable tourism to the island.”
Airbnb has reached a series of innovative partnerships with countries in the Caribbean, including the signing of an agreement with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.