Local B&B owners worried about their sustainability

2019-07-08 15:56
Des Morgan, of the Midlands Bed and Breakfast Association, says only about 10% of local accommodation places are registered.PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

Des Morgan, of the Midlands Bed and Breakfast Association, says only about 10% of local accommodation places are registered.PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

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Registered Bed and Breakfasts in the Midlands have hit a slump even as a new Tourism Bill seeks to enforce stricter rules for short-term accommodation.

The Midlands Bed and Breakfast Association (Midbaba) believes that only about 10% of all places offering accommodation in Pietermaritzburg are registered according to regulations in the hospitality sector.

The association recently presented their concerns at a tourism stakeholders’ meeting with Msunduzi, saying Msunduzi could be losing revenue because of unregistered B&Bs paying lower rates than registered ones.

Midbaba’s Des Morgan told The Witness that short-term accommodation giant Airbnb was eating into the sector’s business, and B&B owners were now concerned about their sustainability.

A new Tourism Bill, however, could include a limit on the number of nights guests could stay at an establishment. It may limit the number of guests due to potentially larger water consumption in an area. Thresholds could also govern pricing, zoning, how much an establishment can earn and regulating matters like security.

At the moment, there are no regulations stipulating who would be responsible in regulating a service like Airbnb.

“We aren’t against something like Airbnb. I personally like the concept and I’m a free enterprise person,” Morgan said. “But the fact is, the playing fields need to be levelled.”

Morgan said registered B&Bs had to foot large bills for their overheads, including a higher minimum wage for workers and rates similar to businesses. They also have to be tax compliant.

“It needs to be regulated. The minister [of Tourism] needs to introduce a threshold ...”

He said: “Some B&Bs say they used to have a 60% occupancy rate, but now that’s dropped to 30%. When it drops low, it can’t run any longer.”

Msunduzi said several issues were raised at the tourism stakeholders’ meeting, including lack of enforcement of by-laws and the “bad state” of the CBD.

“A comprehensive report will be compiled and sent to the municipality’s leadership and a progress report provided to the local tourism sector stakeholders,” the municipality said.

Local organisation Rule of Law Project, meanwhile, said the proposal to enforce stipulations over services like Airbnb was “economically and constitutionally reckless”.

“Short-term home rentals like Airbnb have enabled people previously unable to do so to make a living for themselves.

“Just as ride-sharing platforms like Uber opened up a whole new market for people in transportation, Airbnb has the same transformative potential in tourism. The Tourism Amendment Bill undermines this potential.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  b&b accommodations

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