Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yet Another New Accommodation Sector

As Kiwi accommodation businesses enter the dreaded Winter season, the majority of motels situated away from the popular ski areas are hunkering down contemplating low-demand-survival.

With an ongoing squeeze on the domestic leisure market, motel operators are becoming increasingly wary of competing with the latest consumer trend of booking private homes for overnight stays.

Well known Kiwi hero-websites that are providing a platform and legitimacy for the emerging holiday home market are AA's Bookabach and TradeMe's Holiday Houses. These sites consistently feature in the top-10 most popular Kiwi websites and attract huge traffic flows from domestic travellers contemplating alternative short-term accommodation options.

And punters are spoiled for choice with an over abundance of Ma and Pa owners of surplus residential accommodation that crave to get some short-term rental action.

The market of available short term rentals is surprisingly huge with reselling sites, Bookabach claiming to have over 6,500 listings and Holiday Houses over 8,000. Not only are these fee collecting websites very successful, they are also providing convenient happy hunting grounds for the IRD;-)

Although guest nights for short term rentals of private homes are not recorded on the Statistics NZ's official accommodation survey, we reckon that holiday rentals while operating below the radar are New Zealand's fastest growing accommodation sector.

While we applaud any free market that brings willing sellers and buyers together, we have to wonder if the minimal rentals received by private property owners is worth the numerous risks of allowing the general public loose, unsupervised for a short-stay. For many property owners, the appeal of a quick-buck from short-term rental is soon tarnished after cleaning up after self-entitled-fee-paying-customers, shelling out for damage, increased wear-and-tear and the hassle of accounting for GST and other tax obligations - they pay tax don't they? 

Generally, short-term residential rentals aren't covered by commercial insurance, commercial WOF requirements and the public require a leap in faith when dealing with folksy residential building owners that apply varying degrees of contract agreement commitment, quality and cleaning standards.

As a motel operator, I struggle to understand, why some consumers would wish to negotiate around the landmines prevalent in the alternative accommodation sector that includes Guest Houses, B and Bs AND privately owned holiday homes.

Some time ago, I tripped across a new spin on alternative accommodation that has bewildered me with its apparent success. This involves the concept of renting out spare bedrooms within private residences - Ewww!

The new "rent-my-spare-room" accommodation sector seems to be a clarion call for crazy old ladies to invite strangers into their musty homes to show off their ballooning cat collection!

San Francisco based, Airbnb has been around since 2008 and has been the main innovator of this new subset of the alternative accommodation sector by providing an online service that commoditises spare rooms and other potentially dodgy short-term lodging for sale to a growing consumer base.

Airbnb claim to have over 300,000 listings in 33,000 cities and 192 countries. There is an embedded social aspect that gives this accommodation reselling platform a point of difference with mainstream accommodation sites. All listings are associated with a host (usually the occupier) whose profile includes recommendations by other users, reviews by previous guests, as well as a response rating and private messaging system.

So just how popular is Airbnb in New Zealand?

Go to their mobile/desktop website or download their easy to use app and you may be surprised at the motley swarm of empty bedrooms, sleep-outs etc available for rent in residential locations near you...

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