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Hospitality NL likes proposed government changes addressing short-term rentals

The Newfoundland and Labrador government announced some impending changes to its Tourism Establishment Act and Regulations Tuesday. Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador has been leading the charge requesting action to deal with short-term rental accommodations, such as those offered online through Airbnb. — AIRBNB IMAGE
The Newfoundland and Labrador government announced some impending changes to its Tourism Establishment Act and Regulations Tuesday. Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador has been leading the charge requesting action to deal with short-term rental accommodations, such as those offered online through Airbnb. — AIRBNB IMAGE - Contributed

Organization campaigned for years about accommodations available through online platforms like Airbnb

Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL) is on board with the province's plan to eventually have a regulatory role in dealing with short-term rental accommodations.

Details of the province's framework, which will include an online engagement component and amendments to the Tourism Establishment Act and Regulations, were announced Tuesday in a news release from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation.

"Supporting local, registered and licensed operators in the industry is vital," Tourism Minister Bernard Davis said in the release. "In saying that, we have reached a point where changes to our province’s tourism accommodations policies are needed and modernizing the Tourism Establishments Act is an important first step. We feel the legislation should apply equally to short-term accommodations, as the time to level the playing field is now."

"It started off as a home-sharing, couch-sharing experience, and it's turned out now that we have people who are fully engaged in tourism, whether they realize it or not."

According to the release, three changes will be made to the act and regulations. The definition of tourism establishment will be modernized, the Canada Selects rating requirement will be removed, and the licence requirement for tourism operators through the department will be removed. A new requirement would involve all accommodations being registered with the department.

"Online accommodation platforms may be popular with travellers, but there is a need for short-term establishments to become registered and comply with applicable municipal and provincial regulations and taxation requirements," Davis stated.

HNL has been campaigning for change on this issue for years, working with the province and municipal governments. It has taken issue with the prevalence of unlicensed accommodations available online that are not held to the same regulations and standards as hotels, B and Bs and other established businesses.

Steve Denty, chair of the organization's board of directors, said he's happy the advocacy work is finally paying off, adding it involved a lot of people.

"It started off as a home-sharing, couch-sharing experience, and it's turned out now that we have people who are fully engaged in tourism, whether they realize it or not," Denty said in an interview Tuesday. "Our whole stance has been this short-term rental industry shouldn't be exempt from rules and regulations that have been designed to build successful communities and keep travellers safe. Obviously, for economic reasons, whether it be taxes and other contributions, it would only make sense that if you're in the tourism industry, you play by the same rules as other legitimate operators have for years."

In Denty's view, aspects of the act and regulations were either outdated or not enforced. He expects a new quality assurance mechanism for the industry will be a part of this plan once it's fully developed, adding it will be essential for operators to get involved in the engagement process to develop solutions. If all goes well, Denty believes this will work to everyone's advantage.

"If you're a good operator out there and providing a good experience, maybe a non-traditional experience that a more modern traveller would want, great," he said. "Adhere to the standards that will be proposed, make sure you are a quality accommodator, that you're contributing to the economy, contributing to everything we're doing, and there'll be room for you under the tent. It's not so much a matter of only one kind of business can fit. There's room for everyone. We just need everyone to have a level playing field."

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