Barbados Tourism Minister warns against rushing to an Airbnb tax
BRIDGETOWN – With an increasing number of visitors choosing homestay options provided through services like Airbnb over hotels, the traditional accommodation sector wants to see those providing unregistered lodging slapped with taxes.
But if Barbados’ Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy has his way, that won’t happen anytime soon.
He is advising the Ministry of Finance to first understand the informal accommodation sector before rushing to rake in the taxes from the approximately 1,100 Barbadian homeowners who have properties listed on Airbnb, an online marketplace and hospitality service enabling people to list or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hostel beds, or hotel rooms.
Airbnb is said to have attracted about 16,000 tourists to the island last year – just over two per cent of the total 631,520 who visited Barbados.
“I know the Ministry of Finance is keen to get tax revenue. But again, before you can tax something you have to find out what it is,” Sealy said at a press conference. “It is not simply the case of just saying, ‘all these people are using the Internet to provide accommodation and it is happening outside of the tax net’. Some of these people are normal hotels that are just using it to get business. So we have to do some analysis and go from there.”
Earlier this month, chief executive officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association Rudy Grant said new guidelines were being drafted, including on regulation of short-term rental programmes.
Minister Sealy said while he was aware that the Barbados Tourism Product Authority, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc. were “examining the advent of Airbnb” with regulation in mind, it was “a little complicated” and required careful analysis before any remedies were prescribed.