“Airbnb is revolutionizing the travel market enabling visitors to live in a home or apartment where they can experience local life. Airbnb’s popularity among families is especially strong. They may be able to enjoy a pool, a back yard where children can play, a patio for friends to come over for a barbeque,” said Mario Carey, Chairman, Better Homes and Gardens MCR Bahamas Group. “While it is a great business for the homeowner and a great experience for the visitor, short-term home rentals like listings on Airbnb should also be viewed as a trigger for economic growth. The potential is unlimited with the trickle down effects and now that the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism has signed an agreement with Airbnb the uncertainty about taxation, collection and referrals is resolved. That is definitely a step in the right direction that opens many more doors without burdening the homeowner with overregulation.”
Online booking portals like Airbnb and HomeAway are sweeping the market, opening new ways for visitors to experience destinations and accounting for a larger share of the visitor market with Airbnb’s growth in a few short years nothing short of remarkable. The online portal now accounts for some 80 million guest arrivals in 191 countries with $3.5 billion in earnings projected by the year 2020.
Carey sees its impact on The Bahamas where there are currently between 1,200 and 2,000 Airbnb rentals making the country an even more attractive destination. Homeowners list their properties on the website, Airbnb posts availability with photos and comments about the property from those who have stayed there previously. The homeowner cannot remove or alter negative comments, should there be any, without good reason, a feature that adds to the site’s credibility.
According to Carey, whose MCR Bahamas Group handles luxury vacation rentals along with sales, leasing, property management and appraisals, the new market trend is a shot in the arm for construction, banking and Bahamian investment.
“Banks should be able to rely on Airbnb revenue which can be verified so they can lend to a homeowner who wants to expand or improve their property or build a second home to take advantage of the market,” Carey said. “That means new business for banks or other lenders. Meantime, the homeowner is engaging a contractor so that adds jobs to the economy. And that homeowner is growing their income stream. This model has worked extremely well in the Family Islands. In Abaco, it was the model long before Airbnb was even created and there is a whole rung of the economic ladder that thrives on short-term home rentals.”
Because it acts as a hotel, Airbnb’s should be entitled to certain incentives, Carey believes.
“If Airbnb’s get real property tax exemption, it would encourage more people to use part of their homes or invest in improvements and the more interest there is in this sector of the economy, the more we grow the number of Bahamians who are owners and entrepreneurs,” said Carey.
“Banks and government should fully embrace the concept and at some point, I believe that hotels will start to make design changes to compete with vacation home rentals,” Carey said. “Hotels offer advantages that Airbnb’s do not, including restaurants, entertainment, shopping, spas and other resort amenities. If they were to expand to include larger privacy areas, individual play areas, kitchenettes, I believe you would see a whole new industry emerge. I truly believe we have barely touched the potential of the Airbnb and short-term vacation rental phenomenon that costs us absolutely nothing to pursue.”
Carey was among the first to call for Airbnb’s to be recognized officially.
“We need to officially recognize this facet because it is a growing and important part of our tourism product, but we cannot burden the homeowner extensively. I believe a one-time health inspection or annual health inspection would be fine, a license, and payment of the fee at the front end directly to Airbnb would be a reasonable proposition. The Ministry of Tourism already cleared up much of the confusion and we are moving in the right direction,” said Carey who has handled more than $2 billion in transactions in a career of more than 30 years with the highest certification in luxury marketing in the international real estate industry. His company is a division of the world’s fastest growing residential real estate brand and Carey, a triathlete, has served in numerous capacities on various civic and business boards.