Moteliers cry foul over growth of bach rentals

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 08:46 18/08/2014

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The accommodation sector has been doing well over the last couple of years, but is facing increasing competition from an unexpected quarter - the good old Kiwi bach.

Private rentals of baches and holidays homes is on the increase, but the Motel Association is concerned about the lack of regulation, something that is disputed by the holiday rental sector.

One of the main internet sites, bookabach.co.nz, has more than 8000 bookings nationwide, up 1495 on this time last year.

More than 90 per cent of the site's homes are rented by domestic tourists.

In Taranaki last week there were 101 holiday homes and baches available to rent on the site, with more than 30 of them booked out.

The growth in the holiday rental industry was a global phenomenon, Bookabach chief executive Peter Miles said. The internet had made it easier for people to market their homes.

The main factor driving that growth was traveller demand - especially among families with children.

"Their main reason for choosing holiday rentals is that they're a cost effective means of accommodation where families and groups can stay together. They also provide an ability to stay in remote locations where no other accommodation options are available."

In Taranaki, owners rent their holiday homes out for an average of 47 nights a year. The rest of the time they are used by family and friends or remain empty.

Statistics New Zealand's accommodation survey covers only motels, hotels, holiday parks and backpackers, so it is difficult to determine how many people stay in "holiday homes" and the economic impact.

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokesman said holiday homes were a "growing sector for tourist demand", but it wasn't aware of any agency collecting data on the homes.

But increasing the survey to include them wasn't a realistic option because of the difficulty of identifying them definitively and the high cost of the survey.

The tourist spend on motels, hotels, backpackers and holiday parks had been increasing for two years and was at an all-time high, he said.

Taranaki Motel Association president Paul Watson agreed the industry had had a good couple of years, but the past June had been very quiet.

That was confirmed by the accommodation survey, which said June 2014 had a decrease of 20.1 per cent in total guest nights for the Taranaki area, compared with June last year. Motels had the largest decrease, followed by holiday parks. Hotels had the only increase.

Watson said he hoped things would pick up again.

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He took issue with the Bookabach and holiday homes sites.

The number of private houses available for rent was increasing, but not quality- controlled, he said. And it was not a level playing field.

"They have no big advertising costs and do they pay GST and tax? We have to do all this stuff."

Watson isn't worried about the proposed Hobson Hotel, which will add about 100 rooms into the mix in New Plymouth.

"I'm all for it. It will be bringing in conferences and stuff like that. We'll all benefit out of that. And it will be nice to have a nice hotel up this end of town."

He doesn't think it will affect motels too much, because a lot of people just go to hotels, he said.

The oil industry needed to find some oil or gas. Offshore exploration crews stayed only short term, so at the moment they were not using much accommodation, he said.

"But overall, long term prospects are good."

Stratford motels are also benefiting from the petrochem industry.

Amity Court Motel manager Jason Kowalewski said oil and gas was a big part of his business.

"It affects us if they don't get their permits to drill. We do fine without them, but we do exceptionally well with them. It's pretty good in our industry with oil and gas and the farming industry. It's really working for us."

Last week there were three holiday homes for rent in Stratford on Bookabach, which weren't affecting the motel.

There was still a big demand for rooms where people didn't have to worry about making beds, he said.

According to the accommodation survey, the average length of stay in short- term commercial accommodation in Taranaki - motels, hotels, backpackers and holidays parks - is about two nights.

Bookabach figures show the average stay in a Taranaki holiday house is three nights at $550 per booking.

The site traditionally sees an increase in listings through the summer months nationwide and now people are starting to rent out their primary residence over the peak Christmas/New Year period.

And that is one of the concerns of the New Zealand Motel Association.

Holiday homes did not operate under the same rules as commercial accommodation, New Zealand Motel Association chief executive Michael Baines said.

There were issues around health and safety, ACC, and holiday homes were not required to pay commercial rates or pay for water or rubbish.

They had significantly different costs that were effectively being subsidised by local ratepayers.

"And they won't be contributing to Venture Taranaki."

While the organisation had no problem with holiday homes - they gave the customer more choice - it was unfair competition and the customer was being short-changed on safety.

Commercial accommodation had strict regulation around fire safety that wouldn't be in place in a private home, he said.

Holiday homes were used by holiday makers, travellers and those on business.

In Nelson, holiday homes made up half of the short term accommodation market, Baines said.

He has talked to councils around New Zealand, though none in Taranaki, about regulating homes that were rented out.

One district council required homes, in which more than five people were staying, to get resource consent. "It's a real issue and most councils would like to see it go away."

New Plymouth District Council is not looking at the issue.

Bookabach's Miles said increased regulation by local authorities would have a negative impact on tourism.

"Holiday rental helps fund the maintenance and improvement of housing stock in the regions. Our industry- wide survey found that the majority of owners, 73 per cent, could not afford to keep or maintain their bach without rental income."

Money spent on maintenance, improvements and rates - $100 million a year nationwide - went back into the local community, Miles said.

"Placing costs and restrictions on holiday home owners will mean fewer Kiwis are able to afford their bach. This would limit the choice of traveller accommodation available, reducing the number of visitors to the region."

And he disputed there were concerns about fire safety.

A survey last year showed holiday rental owners' commitment to fire safety, with all respondents saying they had smoke alarms fitted.

A holiday home was still fundamentally a home, he said.

"Providing it meets the Building Code requirements as they relate to houses, then there is no elevated risk."

BY THE NUMBERS For the year ended June 2014 total guest nights for the Taranaki area increased 3.4 per cent. Motels had the largest increase, followed by hotels. Holiday parks had the only decrease. For the Year ended June 2014

Total guest nights:

Hotels:121,298

Motels:264,678

Backpackers:44,256

Holiday Parks:149,528

- Taranaki Daily News

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