Most budget-conscious travellers tend to be pretty fond of Airbnb. While it’s true that there are still plenty of people out there who prefer the relative luxuries hotels and motels can offer – swimming pools, room service, and privacy come to mind – there’s increasingly no shortage of trekkers who like both the price and potential social opportunities that come with renting a native’s apartment or spare room through the popular online travel service.
It’s not a trend that pleases the Association of Hotels of Greater Montreal (AHGM). The industry group argues that private online accommodation sites like Airbnb represent unfair competition, and much like Montreal’s taxi industry and their war with Uber, it wants to see a few notable restrictions placed on the service.
Ève Paré, CEO of the AHGM, says that while renting with Airbnb isn’t illegal according to the law on touristic accommodation, it still raises some significant issues, recently explaining to the Montreal Gazette that her association sees it as “a form of unfair competition because Airbnb hosts aren’t subject to the same norms, laws, and regulations as hoteliers. They don’t have to get the same permits or pay the same taxes. It creates a competitive environment where not everyone’s on a level playing field.”
And it appears the government of Quebec is paying attention, with Tourism Minister Dominique Vien announcing in late April 2015 that the government now has plans to table a bill that will crack down on rentals through housing brokers like Airbnb. Their intent is to subject Airbnb hosts to the “same obligations” as hoteliers and their guests, with a tax levied upon them being the most likely scenario.
So far as Airbnb is concerned, while Montreal remains their most popular destination in Canada, a recent statement on their company website addressing the issue read that they “welcome this news and have been having productive conversations with the government for some time on how we can work together on fair rules for home sharing.”
For the moment, at least, it looks as though Montreal hoteliers can look forward to home sharing services like Airbnb subjecting themselves to regulation and government oversight without so much of a fight – although one would be wise to note that it’s still fairly early in the game, and once the governments plan comes to light, depending on the severity of the measures, it’s certainly possible Airbnb could have a change of heart and decide to throw their full legal weight into the battle.
But that’s not the only positive news so far as Montreal hoteliers are concerned. While personal travel to the city took a major hit after the 2008 financial crisis (in 2009, local hotels saw a dismal 60.5 percent average occupancy rate), recent studies show travel to the city has been on the rise ever since. 9.2 million people visited Montreal in 2014, injecting an impressive 2.7 billion into the local economy, representing 2.2 percent more tourists spending 4.6 more dollars over 2013.
Business travel to the city, which is generally impervious to online services like Airbnb, has either grown or remained consistent over the past several years. According to the GBTA Foundation, the research arm of the Global Business Travel Association, business travellers spent some $23.5-billion in Canada in 2013, generating roughly 1.5 of the country’s GDP. Based on 2013 figures, the GBTA expect that number to grow by 5.5 per cent in 2015. Combine that with a relatively weak Canadian dollar and it’s quite possible the numbers will be notably higher than that.
Historically Montreal has always been a popular travel destination and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. The city has also recently announced a $40.5 million action plan to help further beautify the city with the aim of aiding merchants located along its busiest commercial strips, all with an eye not only towards crucial infrastructure development, but to better position Montreal as a premier North American travel destination.