The impact of Airbnb on WA’s tourism industry: Project overview

The “sharing economy” phenomenon Airbnb has been amongst the most disruptive developments in tourism over the last ten years (Guttentag, 2012). The Airbnb online-platform allows non-tourism professionals to become hosts and rent their apartments to guests. Founded in 2008, Airbnb has since shown exponential growth and provoked a variety of economic policy reactions worldwide.

Increasingly, Airbnb is also becoming a reality in Western Australia. Despite the (potential) impact of Airbnb on WA tourism and the wider economy, data on the size and impact of the phenomenon was scant. The project aimed to collect, analyze and interpret these data to promote informed economic and tourism policy debates.

5.8%

Airbnb users among international WA visitors (2016 Q1-Q3)

8133

Airbnb listings in WA (Mar 2017)

50.0%

Growth in Airbnb listings in WA (May 2016-Mar 2017)

61%

Entire homes/apartments among WA Airbnb listings (Mar 2017)

19%

Estimated occupancy rate of WA Airbnb entire home/apartment listings (May 2016-Mar 2017)

659

Number of Airbnb listings in the City of Perth (No. 1) (Mar 2017)

356

Number of Airbnb listings in Fremantle & Rottnest (No. 2) (Mar 2017)

351

Number of Airbnb listings in Margaret River (No. 3) (Mar 2017)

Background and context

Western Australia’s 356 traditional tourist accommodations recorded almost 73 Mio overnight stays in 2015/16. This number of accommodations includes hotels (with more than 15 rooms) and motels as well as serviced apartments (with more than 15 rooms). They offer all together 23,100 rooms.

A substantial increase in new hotel rooms to inventories in recent years have triggered a more competitive environment. In Perth, 891 new hotel rooms have come online in 2016/17 with a further 1,934 rooms under construction and 1,008 rooms being already approved.

The increasing use of non-traditional accommodation offerings such as Airbnb needs to be added. Tourism Research Australia (2017) has noted for the whole of Australia that “the most common website used to book private accommodation was Airbnb, with 426,000 visitors booking through the site. Other common websites used to make bookings were Stayz (12,000), Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) (12,000) and Couchsurfing (10,000)”. Sources: Tourism Council Western Australia (2016); Tourism Accommodation Australia (2017); Tourism Research Australia (2017)

Research questions

(1) What is the extent of Airbnb supply and demand in WA and what are its main characteristics and features?

(2) What impacts does Airbnb have on WA’s tourism sector, and on the broader economy?

(3) What policy responses have been employed in other tourism destinations worldwide in response to the Airbnb?

Selected key findings

  • Airbnb is an increasingly noticeable reality in WA tourism
  • About 25% of WA’s room capacity is provided by Airbnb
  • About 6% of WA’s international overnight stays are generated by Airbnb (2016)
  • Airbnb supply is growing at about 4% per month (2016)
  • International Airbnb demand is growing at a rate of more than 100% per year (2015-2016)
  • Indicators suggest that WA’s Airbnb hosts remain rather in the “private” (occasional) realm
  • Airbnb guests to WA appear differ from WA guests on average, as do Airbnb holidaymakers
  • 67% of all international Airbnb users in WA are holidaymakers (2015)
  • Airbnb users differ in their distribution regarding source markets: Visitors from Singapore and Malaysia account for 47% of all Airbnb users in WA (2015)
  • Airbnb users have an above average tendency to visit wine regions such as Margaret River and the Swan Valley
  • WA tourism stakeholders voice a mix of concerns and hopes regarding Airbnb
  • Policy responses range from proactive approaches in Amsterdam or London to restrictive approaches in Berlin or New York
  • Jurisdictions try to limit potentially adverse effects by defining a clear line between private and commercial realms of operation

Partners

About the centre

The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre is an independent economic and social research organisation located within the Curtin Business School at Curtin University. The centre was established in 2012 through the generous support from Bankwest (a division of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia), with a core mission to examine the key economic and social policy issues that contribute to the sustainability of Western Australia and the wellbeing of WA households. The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre is the first research organisation of its kind in Western Australia, and draws great strength and credibility from its partnership with Bankwest, Curtin University and the Western Australian government. The centre brings a unique philosophy to research on the major economic issues facing the state. By bringing together experts from the research, policy and business communities at all stages of the process – from framing and conceptualising research questions, through the conduct of research, to the communication and implementation of research findings – we ensure that our research is relevant, fit for purpose, and makes a genuine difference to the lives of Australians, both in WA and nationally. The centre is able to capitalise on Curtin University’s reputation for excellence in economic modelling, forecasting, public policy research, trade and industrial economics and spatial sciences. Centre researchers have specific expertise in economic forecasting, quantitative modelling, micro-data analysis and economic and social policy evaluation. The centre also derives great value from its close association with experts from the corporate, business, public and not-for-profit sectors.

Acknowledgement
and Disclaimer

Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

The authors would like to thank Tourism Western Australia and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet of the Government of Western Australia for the overall support. Thanks go also to Eurac Research (Italy), which has supported the research with its expertise in tourism research and methodological issues; to Greta Erschbamer for support in qualitative data analysis, to Elisa Ravazzoli for support in GIS mapping and to Moritz Jäger for his preparatory work in quantitative data collection; to Murray Cox (Inside Airbnb) and Steve Matthews (Tourism Research Australia) for support in data collection; Ruben Bassani, Daniele Fadda and Giorgio Bellante for the support in data processing and data visualization. The authors would like to thank all interview partners and discussion partners for their availability and for sharing thoughts and ideas, including Airbnb and its representatives in Australia.

The research reported in this publication is funded by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre under a project entitled ‘The impact of Airbnb on WA’s tourism industry and economy’. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this document, the uncertain nature of economic data, forecasting and analysis means that the centre, Curtin University and/or Bankwest are unable to make any warranties in relation to the information contained herein. Any person who relies on the information contained in this document does so at their own risk. The centre, Curtin University, Bankwest, and/ or their employees and agents disclaim liability for any loss or damage, which may arise as a consequence of any person relying on the information contained in this document. Except where liability under any statute cannot be excluded, the centre, Curtin University, Bankwest and/or their advisors, employees and officers do not accept any liability (whether under contract, tort or otherwise) for any resulting loss or damage suffered by the reader or by any other person.

The views in this publication are those of the authors and do not represent the views of Curtin University and/or Bankwest or any of their affiliates. This publication is provided as general information only and does not consider anyone’s specific objectives, situation or needs. Neither the authors nor the centre accept any duty of care or liability to anyone regarding this publication or any loss suffered in connection with the use of this publication or any of its content.