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  • TOURISM SIGNS M.O.U WITH AIRBNB TO REGULARIZE VACATION HOME RENTALS

    The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Airbnb signed a Memorandum of Understanding to regularize vacation home rentals and enhance promotion of this important tourism sector. The agreement was signed during a press conference at the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation on Wednesday, August 9, 2017.

    The Minister of Tourism and Aviation, the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar regarded it as a goodwill agreement between two industry partners who have decided to cooperate in areas of common interest.

    Some of those areas include sharing of aggregate Airbnb Bahamas data, provision of information to Airbnb on Bahamas industry-related laws, and exploration of Airbnb’s collection and remittance of any applicable taxes.

    Minister D’Aguilar said: “As the leading tourism authority in the country, the Ministry of Tourism acknowledges the reality of vacation home rentals, which provide alternative guest accommodations to traditional hotels.

    “In acknowledging this reality and seeking to manage

    and shape it for the benefit of all stakeholders involved, the Ministry has sought out partnership with Airbnb Inc., a key player in the global home sharing economy.”

    Airbnb reports that, in The Bahamas, there are 1,900 listings on its platform. These are all active listings. A typical host earns an average of USD $6,000.00 a year and guests stay an average of 4.6 nights. The number of guest arrivals to The Bahamas through Airbnb in the last 12 months has grown by 95 percent.

    “When we consider the entire home-sharing market in The Bahamas, the actual numbers of operators of vacation home rentals are much higher, taking into account that Airbnb is not the only booking website that hosts use,” the minister said.

    In order to encourage and enhance growth and development within the accommodations sector, he said that the Ministry of Tourism recognizes the need to do a number of things:

    1. Diversify the accommodations sector of the tourism industry;

    2. Circumvent potential industry sub-sector challenges;

    3. Ensure the safety of the home rental guest, owner, and

    property; and

    4. Develop and showcase this niche market as a national

    revenue resource.

    Recognizing the contribution of vacation home rentals to the economy, Mr. D’Aguilar noted with concern that generally, this sector is unregulated and operates without taxation.

    In this vein, over the next few months he said that the Ministry would implement a number of measures to regulate this sector.

    One being, to ask all proprietors and operators of owner occupied rental homes to register with the Hotel Licensing Department of the Ministry of Tourism.

    “In business, there are some things that are a given. You operate a business to generate revenue, and as a contributing member of society, you pay your share of tax on the revenue you earn. These are universal givens in every area of commerce. There are no exceptions.”

    He also disclosed that within the coming months, new legislation would require these business owners to pay a tax on their businesses.

    “We have had extensive consultation with our stakeholders, and the amount of tax levied will level the playing field in the industry,” he said.

    Mr. D’Aguilar further advised that the new legislation being crafted to regulate the sector will clarify many of the murky issues now plaguing this sector and will define the parameters of vacation home rentals.

    “It will set the standards and best practices to facilitate the sector in preserving the reputation of our destination brand.

    “In short, the new legislation will put in place a modern

    regulatory framework within which vacation home rentals can operate as an integral part of our tourism sector,” the minister said.

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