AirBnB is here to stay – in a big way

In Australian Cultural Exports, Australian Domestic Tourism, Community, Harmonisation, Media and Communications, Momentum, National Headlines, New South Wales

Online devotees Catherine and Rob Graham at one of their rental properties at Currarong, Jervis Bay. Picture: Simon Bullard Source: News Corp Australia

Holiday home rentals riding high on a digital wave

From The Australian/ The Weekend Australian, 31st January 2015

THE growth of online holiday rental services is cutting real ­estate agents adrift, with home owners increasingly listing their properties on websites such as Airbnb.

With more than 30,000 homes listed on Airbnb, Australians are among the biggest users of the service. This month Sydney overtook Amsterdam to be among the top 10 cities for Airbnb users worldwide, with more than 10,000 homes offered for holiday accommodation. The largest holiday rental website in Australia, Stayz, has more than 38,000 properties and owners frequently list on other sites too, such as HomeAway, Tripadvisor and Holidayview.

Sam McDonagh, Airbnb manager for Australia and New Zealand, expects the market to continue to grow, telling The Weekend Australian that given its current growth rate the number of local users is expected to double over the next year.

“More Australians are using Airbnb than ever before … and Australia remains one of our most exciting growth markets,” he said.

“People list their homes for all sorts of reasons. Many enjoy meeting people and sharing what’s great about their neighbourhood, while for others it’s about making a little extra money.

“You can chat with your host so you’re not meeting a stranger and you can leave reviews for each other after you stay.”

The more personal approach in renting directly is part of the ­attraction for Catherine Graham and her architect husband, Rob, who bought their first rental property 15 years ago and now run three others on the NSW south coast through Stayz, Airbnb and their own website, SouthCoast­Escapes.

“I make an effort to ask what sort of thing they’re interested in,’’ she said. ‘Are you sporty, are you into cultural things, are you a foodie?’, and I try to give them the inside information about where the best things are in our local area. It makes me more comfortable because as an owner you do worry about letting complete strangers stay in your house.

“People want to know the host. In the old days they were just happy to book and just rock up at the house and pick up the keys from a real estate agent.

“We’re no longer with the real estate agent because we found we were only one of many clients and we didn’t get the same attention that you get if you manage it ­yourself.”

President of the Real Estate Institute of Australia Neville Sanders said while there was no data available, the move to online had “great momentum”, although he didn’t believe it was “a significant part of the market”. “My feeling is that all agents ­always recognise the absolute right of every landlord to do it themselves,” he said.

“We would like to think that agents offer a far higher level of service and experience but they charge for the services, so that’s the trade-off for landlords.”

But the acting chief executive of Tourism Accommodation Australia, Carol Guiseppi, said she was concerned about “a lack of transparency”. “There is no regulation around it at all in terms of safety … there is no understanding of the extent to which it is growing, it’s unlicensed,’’ she said.

Airbnb appoints country manager for Australia and New Zealand

ACCOMMODATION share site Airbnb has signalled a new focus on the Australia and New Zealand markets, with its first ­appointment of a country manager to the region.

The start-up has appointed former iiNet executive and Quickflix co-founder Sam McDonagh as its first country manager to increase awareness of Airbnb in the region and support its local sales and support team.

Before joining Airbnb in June Mr McDonagh was the general manager for cheap-razor start-up Dollar Shave Club and previously worked as a director at eBay.

“Australia and New Zealand are incredibly important markets for Airbnb both in terms of domestic and international travel,” said Varsha Rao, head of global operations at Airbnb. “Sam has a deep passion for travel and a great track record growing companies that are focused on strong customer communities, which will make him a great asset to Airbnb.”

Since its founding in 2008, Airbnb has become a popular online destination for millions of tourists looking for cheap rooms to rent.

The site operates by directly connecting accommodation-seekers with homeowners who rent their couches, rooms, apartments or homes for a nightly rate. Airbnb collects payments and keeps a small portion of the fees.

The site is part of a trend of technology start-ups, such as car-sharing service Uber, which allow people to share excess resources.

Airbnb has been one of the standouts in that category. The site has enjoyed rapid growth over the past six years with the Australia and New Zealand market showing strong signs of potential, with the number of listings in the region doubling to more than 18,000 in the past year alone.

In total, the service connects people in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries where 800,000 listings have attracted more than 20 million guests.

But Airbnb also has its detractors, most notably the hotel industry, which argues that rentals through the site avoid taxes and are not held to stringent health and safety regulations. Those concerns, however, have not stopped investors jumping on to the Airbnb bandwagon.

The service raised funding at a valuation of $US2.5 billon in 2012 from venture-capital investors ­including Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital.

In April this year more investors led by private equity firm TPG finalised an agreement to ­invest more than $US450 million in Airbnb, putting a value on the home-rental internet site of $US10bn ($10.7bn).

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