Like any good host, Nancy Wadden just wants to keep the conversation going.
Particularly, she hopes to bring a voice to the table as the province considers regulating the Airbnb industry.
Wadden is a spokesperson for Airbnb Hosts of Newfoundland and Labrador, and an Airbnb host in St. John’s, where city hall is working toward implementing a four per cent tourism marketing levy (TML) for Airbnb hosts. It’s a levy that is paid by all other traditional, regulated accommodations in the city.
“We’re open to that discussion,” Wadden told The Telegram as she prepared her downtown Airbnb for its next visitor.
She said she will meet with Mayor Danny Breen this week to discuss the levy.
Funds from the tourism marketing levy go toward the St. John’s Convention Centre and Destination St. John’s, services Breen said benefit Airbnb hosts as much as other tourism-related industries in the city.
However, Breen said the most recent estimates indicate the city is losing about $350,000 annually because Airbnbs are unregulated by the province.
One of the questions Wadden has for the city is whether Destination St. John’s will advertise Airbnbs like other accommodations in the city.
“I think people just want to be prepared for what’s coming, and hopefully have our voices heard,” she said.
“I think people just want to be prepared for what’s coming, and hopefully have our voices heard." — Nancy Wadden
At the provincial level, a working group has been established with several departments to address taxation and regulation of short-term rental accommodations.
Wadden said she believes provincial regulations will require plenty of research.
“Airbnb is kind of new to the industry, and there’s a lot of different municipalities across the country, and internationally, that have made different decisions, depending on their area.
“We have people in our group from different places in the province where municipalities have gone ahead and made certain decisions, but they all seem to be a little bit different.”
Most importantly, Wadden said she hopes the government gets input from Airbnb hosts about any regulatory changes.
She said hosts in Newfoundland and Labrador are passionate about providing excellent service, and that’s evident in statistics on the website AirDNA which compiles data about Airbnb markets.
“One (statistic) I came across that I found was really interesting is in Montreal only 77 per cent of hosts have a 4.5 rating or higher (out of 5), but here in St. John’s 93 per cent have a 4.5 or higher (rating).
“I think it just goes to show the pride of ownership that some of the hosts have here locally. I think they’re doing a high-quality service to people and it’s showing, and that’s why, I think, the industry is continuing to grow.”
Outside of providing a service for travellers, Airbnbs have benefitted hosts in a variety of ways, from helping them maintain older homes, to paying monthly expenses and even providing a career change, Wadden said.