I believe that Belizeans are unaware of how the emergence of the so-called “sharing economy” is affecting them. We know that it may be the greatest technological disruption the travel industry has seen as of late, however, it is only seen as something that is affecting developed countries like the US. We see in the news – the various litigations between cities and Uber/Airbnb and we think that it is only a big city problem. We think it doesn’t matter if Airbnb encourages gentrification and raises real estate prices in places like New York.
However, of course this can be tied back to problems Belizeans will also have. Lately, I have been hearing a lot of complaints about how Belize tourism visitor numbers keep rising but hotels are actually seeing low occupancy rates. There is speculation that the government may be making the tourism numbers up, however, I believe that the issue is that apartment/room sharing sites like Airbnb and VRBO are taking up many of the visitors. The last time I checked there were over 300 rentals. You may say that this isn’t a problem because everyone deserves a little side hustle, however, investing in a hotel is not a minor investment and if it goes belly up the ramifications are widespread. Hotels pay taxes and follow certain regulations, which many individuals who list their places on sites like Airbnb avoid. Yet people who stay at Airbnb sites use the same resources from the town or city, which are subsidized by taxes.
The point of me sharing the above is not because I want Airbnb to disappear, it’s so that you are more cognizant of what is happening. I don’t have a solution, except, to suggest that if you have your place listed on Airbnb, pay your taxes, especially those small hotels that list their places on Airbnb, or at least donate something to your local BTIA chapter. I’m certain free meat pies would encourage members to show up to the monthly meetings and hopefully contribute ideas that may help the tourism industry.
Anyway, time for some good news – see the 2016 winners of the BTB Tourism Awards.