Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy has dismissed critics of Airbnb, insisting the short-term rental facilitator was contributing significantly to the tourism industry.
It emerged this week that a growing number of Barbadians were offering their homes to visitors as short-term lodging through Airbnb, with 1,100 Barbadian properties listed on its website.
Hoteliers have complained that the global online marketplace was undermining the traditional accommodation sector by affecting occupancy and eating into their income.
However, Sealy this week rubbished the idea, stressing that Airbnb contributed two per cent of the island’s record number of visitors last year, a performance he attributed to the efforts of the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA).
“While we hear some people complaining about the Airbnb taking all of their business . . . the massive sum of 16,000 people used them in 2016, a year that saw 632,000 people coming to Barbados. So we are talking about two per cent of people using Airbnb.
“So I think we have to recognize we are dealing with people who would book their vacations using different mechanisms. So that in itself is a lesson for all of us and vindicates the Government’s decision to create the BTPA,” he told the launch of the Sugar and Rum season at Sunbury Plantation.
One day after General Manager of Sugar Bay Barbados Beach Resort Morgan Seale had cautioned that an out of control unregistered accommodation sector, including the increasingly lucrative Airbnb, would “water down” the Barbados tourism product, the homestay company’s public policy head in Latin America and the Caribbean Shawn Sullivan said on Tuesday, Airbnb could be financially rewarding for Barbadians with the typical host earning US$ 3,900 a year through its platform.
“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 Oistins 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 had said.