Retiree one of many benefiting from booming Airbnb market
A part from the pension she receives as a former banker, and from the National Insurance Board, 71-year-old Ethel Rolle is one of countless Bahamians who earn a living from the fastest-growing industry in The Bahamas: the vacation home rental market.
Rolle said she started renting an apartment she owns in Danottage Estates in January 2015 shortly after she retired, and since then has been able to sustain her financial commitments because of it.
Despite a dip in her business, Rolle said the boom in tourism and the vacation home rental market has become her lifeline.
“It was very, very good, but right now it’s very, very slow, this year is very slow. But in the past four years it was like somebody would book for two or three nights, check out today, and somebody else checked in. Just about every day on my calendar was booked, always,” she said.
“It’s not that way now. Right now, I have one booking for June, one booking for July and one booking for August. But before it was very good.”
The “off-resort” accommodations market has taken off in recent years, firming by 18.7 percent this past April.
It is why government intends to require online marketplaces that provide vacation home rental services – like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO – to pay value-added tax (VAT) beginning July 1.
Rolle said she doesn’t believe the new tax will impact her bottom line very much.
“Well no, because they take out a very small amount, and they take it from the service charge for Airbnb,” she said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest has said that the recent growth in the untaxed vacation home rental market created unfair competition for hotels, but Rolle disagrees.
“I don’t think so, because the people who want to go to hotels still go to hotels. I have some guests who would stay at Atlantis for a couple of days and then come to me, or they will come to me for a couple of days and then they’ll go to Atlantis,” she said.
“Most of the guests, they’d like to know the natives, they want to see what’s happening around the country. Some of them don’t even want to see a hotel. They don’t want to see an Atlantis.”
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