City considers collecting revenue, fees from Airbnb to boost tourism economy

City considers collecting revenue, fees from Airbnb to boost tourism economy
Updated: Aug. 22, 2018 at 9:09 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Visitors from far and wide continue reserving dates to stay in vacation properties throughout the Fountain City, thanks to websites like Airbnb.

City government is now working to regulate how hosts operate, to benefit the economy.

While the city mulls over proposed regulations that would collect more revenue from short-term rental hosts paying their share of sales receipts and taxes, some hosts feel these regulations could overreach into their own bottom line, and affect customers' choice and pockets.

Should the city approve the planning commission's new regulations, it would follow a model, according to Visit Columbus GA CEO Peter Bowden, much like the one in Nashville, which keeps traditional hotels and listings on Airbnb equally attractive and secure for customers.

"We do have a tremendous supply and investment through the hotel community," Bowden said, "and we need to make sure the playing field is level.

The hotels are under a much more strict environment and criteria to operate, and we just want to make sure the short-term rental folks are operating in the same playing field."

Bowden listed some of the regulations short-term vacation rental hosts in the Fountain City could have to follow, according to the proposal's first draft.

"They'll have to get a business license and they'll have to go through some checks and balances. They have to reapply for their license on a regular basis."

Haley Lyman, Airbnb host and hospitality manager, said the regulations may still favor hotels, since there are thousands of units for visitors to choose, versus the nearly 120 current listings for short-term rentals on Airbnb in Columbus

"I think [the regulations] are a little heavy-handed," Lyman said, "because we don't compete with hotels as far as in comparison to the number of units in hotels in town, and the number of Airbnb units - we are just a small percentage of that."

For Lyman and other hosts she knows that operate in the Fountain City, they're offering rental units to serve a specific demand in the market - one catering to families and large groups.

"We're serving a different purpose," she said. "We have a lot for families coming, a lot more groups coming that want to be able to cook together, and want to be able to host other people in this space."

City council will discuss the regulations for their first reading on Sep. 11, at which point, the publi  and likely property hosts  will weigh in to see if they can reach a compromise with the city.

What hosts like Lyman said they would want, should the regulations pass, is for the visitors bureau (Visit Columbus GA) to use its resources and list each and every unit available on Airbnb, as part of the city's marketing effort; that way, Lyman said, all options have equal exposure online to attract families wanting to take a vacation to the Fountain City.

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