A growing number of Barbadians are offering their homes to visitors as short-term lodging through the online marketplace, Airbnb.
An official of the global accommodation facilitator today said some 1,100 Barbadian homeowners had listed their properties on Airbnb’s website, where people list their homes or apartments for easy online booking.
Public policy head in Latin America and the Caribbean Shawn Sullivan said the company was responsible for attracting 16,000 visitors to Barbados last year, which equates to two per cent of all arrivals.
“What we are seeing is that more and more travellers do not want to stay necessarily in a hotel all of the time, they want to stay in local economies. They want to hang out in the Oistin Fish Fry or they want to stay in other parts of the island,” Sullivan told journalists this morning immediately after signing an agreement with the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) to develop a set of policy principles and recommendations on the sharing economy for Caribbean governments and other stakeholders.
He added that homestay programmes could be financially rewarding for Barbadians, with the typical host earning US$3,900 a year through their Airbnb’s platform.
It was just yesterday that General Manager of Sugar Bay Barbados Beach Resort Morgan Seale cautioned that an out of control unregistered accommodation sector, including the increasingly lucrative Airbnb, would “water down” the Barbados tourism product, while calling for these homestay programmes to be held to the same standard as the rest of the accommodation sector.
A common complaint from hoteliers as the sharing economy becomes increasingly popular among travellers, is that homestay programmes are eating into their income.
However, Sullivan denied claims that Airbnb was undermining the traditional accommodation sector.
“We do not cannibalize the industry or take market share from traditional accommodation sites. We end up basically growing the industry because more people are interested in coming. We have a tremendous impact on the local taxi companies, bars and restaurants. The entire eco-system which makes up the tourism sector in general benefits when there is a growing Airbnb presence,” he stressed.
The online community marketplace has over 41,000 listings in the Caribbean, and under the agreement with CTO, signed at the regional tourism organization’s headquarters in Warrens, St Michael by Sullivan and Secretary General Hugh Riley, both organisations will share data and studies with policymakers about the impact of the sharing economy in the region.
They will also identify ways to make the sharing economy more inclusive and broaden the benefits of tourism to non-traditional actors.
“The CTO is establishing a basis for mutual cooperation with Airbnb. It is important for us to examine all aspects of this important segment of the sharing economy. We believe that by clearly understanding Airbnb’s massive influence in capturing consumers’ interest in unique accommodations we will be in a position to properly advise our members and to allow the Caribbean to achieve the goals of year-round profitability, visitor satisfaction and sustainable tourism development,” Riley said in a press release issued by the two organizations.
With over two million listings in 191 countries, Airbnb is the largest online facilitator of short-term lodging.