EDITOR, The Tribune.
Re: your piece in the Business Section today (Thursday).
Level the playing field suggests that competition exists between the Airbnb Host and the hotels. This is patently untrue and simply shows that Mr Russell knows very little, if anything, about the vacation rental business.
The suggestion that by taxing the Airbnb business “it will help address issues of parity, pertaining to cost of product and services” is another unfounded statement that further demonstrates that Mr Russell knows nothing about this business. Since when has the Ministry of Tourism marketed to New Zealand, Australia, Italy, France, UK, Sweden, Denmark, mid-west USA, West Coast USA?
While our Governments have been paying millions of dollars in advertising, Airbnb has developed a very successful social media business for very little money. Our Tourism Minister is having the AG’s office bring legislation to tax approximately 1,200, mostly Bahamian, Airbnb Hosts.
Just because he thinks they are making money. Talk about a black crab syndrome! The Minister says …. and ensure those landlords are in full compliance with local rules and regulations. Just when has any arm of government been successful in regulating anything? The huge success of Airbnb is that it is “self-regulating” on both the Host and the Guest. Each publishes a scorecard of their experience, and if something is not right for the Host or the Guest they will be kicked out. The referrals are public, so potential guests can see what has happened with the host they are thinking of renting from, and the host can see what other hosts have experienced with the proposed guest. And no one needs the Ministry of Tourism at all. Sorry!
Whenever you impose regulation, you open the door to corruption. We are seeing it every day now. You can’t get a Physical Planning inspection without waiting days and weeks on end, and finally you buy lunch for someone, and you get your certificate.
I would like to invite Mr Russell to go on a tour with me of places that I would like to show him, that don’t have fire alarms and extinguishers and sanitation records, and everything else that is inspected once and never again. He must think that Bahamians are really stupid and will buy anything you tell them. Just look what the regulation and so on did with “Fyre Festival”. That was not an Airbnb deal, my friend.
Finally, Mr Russell notes that it is a thriving business. Yes it is, and it thrives without yours, or anybody else’s help. If the Government gets involved, it will be over for The Bahamas. And no, the Airbnb guest is not going to book at Atlantis or Bahama or Grand Lucayan or Pink Sands. They are a different kind of tourist and you meddle with them at your peril. They will just go elsewhere. And you will earn nothing and the former hosts will earn nothing. But the people will know who killed the goose.
BRUCE G. RAINE
August 17, 2017.