by Greta Yeoman
Airbnb in the Mackenzie
The Courier found 116 listings for Lake Tekapo on the Airbnb website, with an average price of $244 per night.
Further south, there were 192 Airbnb listings for Twizel – averaging $171 per night – and 85 in the wider Fairlie area (from Coal Stream to Kimbell and Ashbury Flat), with an average cost of $118 per night.
An Airbnb spokesman estimated a “typical Airbnb host” would make about $88 a week or $4590 a year in extra income.
Finding accommodation for workers in the Mackenzie district’s tourist towns is increasingly becoming an issue, community representatives say.
Tekapo Community Board chairwoman Stella Sweney said hospitality businesses in the town, including hotels and tourist attractions, were finding it “very hard” to find accommodation for their staff.
“People live in Fairlie and come and work [in Tekapo].”
One of the contributing factors was the number of Airbnb properties listed in the district, which was “definitely on the increase”, she said.
Airbnb is an international accommodation company through which home-owners hire out rooms or entire homes for short-term accommodation.
Mackenzie properties that have previously been rented as long-term tenanted accommodation have become nightly or short-stay Airbnb properties. Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith said the council was concerned about the impact this was having on the district’s rental market.
“Working families are having trouble finding affordable accommodation. This is having a social effect on our communities.”
South Canterbury Anglican Advocacy social justice advocate Ruth Swale said she had met hospitality workers in Tekapo and Twizel who were sleeping on couches in rotating shifts because they did not have their own bedrooms.
“I don’t have stats, but certainly understand from people I have spoken to in that area that the situation is really dire.”
Twizel Community Board member Paul Hannagan said most accommodation in Twizel was being rented by builders working in the town.
“This is having a social effect on our communities.” – Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith
He said there were always people seeking accommodation on social media, but residents were often able to assist with their requirements.
However, the “blow-out” of tourist numbers over the past few years had made a noticeable difference to the town.
Waitaki electorate MP Jacqui Dean said accommodation was a “real issue”, particularly for Tekapo.
“[The town] has struggled to play catch-up with increasing visitor numbers.”
ChristchurchNZ destination and attraction general manager Loren Heaphy said Airbnb often attracted visitors who preferred not to stay in traditional accommodation.
She said research showed an average Airbnb host in New Zealand only had guests 26 nights a year.
“[So] the impact of Airbnb on a community is often less than it is perceived to be.”
However, Ms Heaphy said housing workers in tourist towns needed to be looked at.
“We strongly encourage tourism operators to support their staff in finding accommodation as part of their employment.”
Hospitality New Zealand South Canterbury branch representative Kristy Phillips agreed.
She said while there were projects “in the works” to help with worker accommodation, there was a real need for a solution.
An Airbnb spokesman said “home sharing” helped families make ends meet, made travel more affordable and created local jobs.
Despite the growth of Airbnb, the scheme only represented about 1%-2% of the country’s housing market, he said.