With Queenstown’s accommodation industry being hugely hit by the Covid-19 lockdown and border closure, the Airbnb sector which so many locals have got in to, to earn some spare coin virtually disappeared overnight. Many have speculated this sector won’t come back, but two Airbnb managers tell PHILIP CHANDLER it’s still got a bright future
It’s become a truism that Covid-19’s killed off the local Airbnb industry – but has it?
Hoteliers supposedly rejoice, once tourism returns, they won’t be competing with 5000-plus homes, apartments or rooms whose owners have put them on Airbnb or other peer-to-peer platforms in recent years, many allegedly not having gone through the same regulatory hoops they have.
Reports of Airbnb owners switching to long-term lets are also giving long-suffering tenants hope they’ll find more – and better-priced – flats to rent.
Two local Airbnb property managers, however, don’t believe their industry’s dying off.
Host My Home co-owner Jodie Adams started doing Airbnbs seven years ago when there were only 30 places on that platform.
“People didn’t even know Airbnb existed and you only got Americans – they were the only people who knew about it.”
She’s lucky she’s still had visitors, who couldn’t leave the country, staying at her company’s 20 or so properties over the lockdown, though of course she’s also had oodles of cancellations.
She’s also aware a lot of Airbnbers are switching to long-term lets.
“You can tell by the photos people post on social media they’re professional photos rather than ones taken with their iPhone.
“I think a lot of people are trying to get someone in for the interim, like three or six months, and then if the domestic market kicks off and we get that trans-Tasman bubble, I imagine a lot of people will come back.”
Adams, who notes her clients fork out sometimes $11,000-plus per property for resource consents and development contributions, is “100 per cent confident” she’ll rebound, even it takes a little while – just last Sunday, she took five domestic bookings for late May/early June.
Families and couples, she says, have come to enjoy the freedom and cost-effectiveness of using Airbnb accommodation, especially with full kitchens at their disposal.
Jo Silverthorn, who manages 15 properties through her company, Airbnb Property Management – Here to Help, says Airbnbs have given travellers a choice.
“I think a lot of people who have stayed in Airbnbs don’t really want to stay in hotels – it’s a whole different experience.”
Silverthorn says she’s also like a guest’s personal concierge, in terms of helping them out.
“A lot more businesses are now also using Airbnb for their employees, especially if they have to have somewhere for a couple of weeks or a month.
“It’s more cost-effective for the company, it’s more enjoyable for the staff member.”
She’s also seen hosts – though only one of her clients- switch to long-term lets, which means there’ll be less competition for those who’ve left their properties on Airbnb.
Silverthorn’s optimistic Kiwis, till our borders open, will come to Queenstown in encouraging numbers, attracted by good rates and the fact they can’t holiday overseas.
“There’s also a large percentage going, ‘hey, we need to get out there and support our own economy’.”
Also keeping the faith is Tucker Beach host Jo Robinson who, like most hosts, has seen her income drop off a cliff.
“Right now,” she says, “I don’t believe the worst-case scenario is having zero income.
“The worst-case scenario is getting a long-term tenant in, they lose their job in the next wave of lay-offs and then they can’t pay you rent and you can’t evict them.”
Robinson’s hoping to pick up Airbnb bookings again when the ski season starts.
And she believes having a beautiful property puts her in better stead than “the standard-issue Shotover Country or Lake Hayes Estate one-bedroom properties”.
“The cream will always rise.”
Local Colliers International agent Richie Heap says the influx of Airbnbs moving to long-term lets has to result in some price correction for those properties.
“Historically, a lot of housing prices have been set due to the rental returns.
“However, with many investors having had to front with 30 per cent deposits, due to loan-to-value ratio restrictions, I don’t imagine there’s going to be a whole lot popping up [for sale] in a hurry.”