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VisitBritain courts Airbnb while Tourism Oz stays aloof

February 7, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Britain’s two prime national tourism bodies, VisitBritain and VisitEngland, have teamed up with Airbnb to promote local tourism experiences – a much chummier approach than is seen in Australia.

Many hoteliers in Australia strongly oppose Airbnb and other “sharing economy” platforms, viewing them as backdoor competitors who don’t face the same overheads.

Tourism Australia’s website gives a plug to Airbnb’s pop-up glamping on Sydney’s Cockatoo Island (using Mercedes “glampervans”) and mentions Airbnb elsewhere occasionally – but generally stays at arm’s length.

A couple of months ago, Tourism Australia director Bradley Woods, who is also chief executive of the Australian Hotels Association’s West Australia chapter, attended the Reformbnb conference in New York – dubbed the world’s first anti-Airbnb gathering.

Airbnb’s public policy boss for Australia and New Zealand, Brent Thomas, took issue with Woods’ attendance at Reformbnb, telling the Australian Financial Review that Woods’ presence at the event raised questions about potential conflicts of interest related to his role with Tourism Australia.

Woods rejected any such suggestion, telling the AFR he had represented the tourism and hospitality industry around Australia for over 25 years and he found “Airbnb’s personal attacks and efforts to degrade my professionalism” to be completely baseless.

The Australian Hotels Association proposes a five-point plan to regulate, license and control short-term home rentals, as follows:

  1. Only a host’s primary residence may be listed for sharing.
  2. Listing of entire properties for stays under 14 days prohibited.
  3. Harmonise fire, safety, building code and insurance requirements with hotel industry.
  4. Home sharing properties must be registered, to enable compliance monitoring.
  5. Registration fee payable, to fund administration and compliance monitoring.

 IN BRITAIN, MEANWHILE, that country’s tourism organisations are suddenly getting very friendly with Airbnb.

VisitBritain and VisitEngland have launched a jointly funded GBP 500,000 (nearly AUD 900,000) partnership with Airbnb to work with businesses and destinations to promote local experiences to domestic and international visitors, British marketing website The Drum reports.

The partnership focuses on “Experiences” – the Airbnb product that promotes local experiences like handcrafted activities, tours and educational workshops led by local experts. Examples: a tour of the Yorkshire Moors, or a trip to a lesser-known Jazz club in London’s Peckham, accompanied by a local musician.

Visit Britain says about half of UK domestic “Experiences” bookings on the Airbnb platform are made by 18-34 year olds, a market it is keen to pursue.

VisitBritain’s commercial director, Carol Dray, said of the partnership: “Our Experiences collaboration with Airbnb greatly amplifies our marketing reach and increases the range and depth of bookable tourism experiences locally, giving people more choice”.

Written by Peter Needham

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