Government may be losing out on some valuable tourism revenue by not tapping into the earnings of locals who rent accommodation to visitors, says Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association’s (BHTA) Susan Springer.
She believes there is a lot more to be earned from informal tourism sectors like homestay. This form of tourism involves visitors going through intermediary hosts such as Airbnb and TripAdvisor to rent accommodation from local families.
This enterprise has been growing without regulation in tourist oriented nations like Barbados for close to a decade. According to recent data released by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Barbados is only behind the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico with 3 000 units available, ranging from a room in a home to condos.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Springer said government may have missed the boat by failing to regularize this sector, which would not only earn the country revenue but also level the playing field for registered hotels that are required to pay taxes.
She contended that other governments have partnered with websites who offer the service in order to collect sales taxes and Barbados should consider a similar model.
“This is by no means some new fad, and we have already been is discussion with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Tourism about partnering with the international facilitators of the shared economy sector in an effort to create a new revenue stream and, in so doing, level the playing field for registered providers,” Springer said.
“There is a view that Homestay service is cheaper but this is not the case, as rates for condos can go as high as $400 per night.”
She disclosed that there were also discussions on employing the established standards of the 2007 World Cricket World Cup Homestay programme to standardize the industry.
The BHTA CEO noted that the Royal Barbados Police Force had expressed concerns about remote locations, poor lighting and overgrown vegetation presenting a danger to visitors utilizing the accommodation provided within this informal sector.
“In the end, it is important that the standard of the brand is protected while allowing for growth of the product,” she stressed.