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FOR AND AGAINST QUEENSTOWN VISITOR LEVY

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May, 2019

Two accommodation giants are taking different approaches in the bed

tax debate, as a lobby group of local providers up the rhetoric on social

media.

Airbnb are proving perhaps unlikely allies for Jim Boult, having been

under the gun from council in the past few years.

Commissioners watered down a controversial proposal to restrict visitor

accommodation in parts of Queenstown, saying there was no evidence

to suggest it affected the rental market.

Still, the firms head of public policy for Australasia, South Asia and

South East Asia, Brent Thomas, is proving hes not one to hold a grudge.

We are supportive, he says of the proposed five per cent visitor levy,

placed solely on the accommodation sector, in effect a room tax.

Queenstown ratepayers have until June 5 to vote in a non-binding

referendum on the visitor levy for the district.

This is something we see around the world, and support in different

places around the world, Thomas says.

Well be continuing to work with our hosts in support of mayor Boults

proposal. We think its fair, its been proven to work elsewhere, and we

think its sustainable.

He says hosts are locals too, and many think the 34 international visitors

to every one resident can contribute more.

Meanwhile, Bookabach has a more cautious approach.

General manager Peter Miles says: We believe short-term rental is a

scalable commercial activity that varies from mum and dads covering

some of the running costs associated with owning a holiday home

through to fully-fledged businesses designed to maximise financial

returns.

As such, our chief concern is that any tourism levy scales appropriately

and has a low compliance burden so as to not drive out mum and dad

operators.

He believes there should be rates-relief, ideally by rating such

properties as residential. Queenstowns council has indicated that could

be on the cards.

Miles says there are also concerned the levy applies solely to the

accommodation industry, rather than a broad-based levy aimed at the

sector, including providers, tour operators, car rental companies and

airlines.

That view is echoed by the Lakes District Tax Equity Group, led by Villa

Del Lago Hotel owner Nik Kiddle and his wife Charlotte Mills.

Mills has been vocal on various community social media pages over

recent weeks, stoking support for a no vote. They believe the levy

should also target attraction providers.

Boult says the goal of the levy is to target tourists, rather than locals.

Accommodation is about the only thing in town that locals dont

actually use, Boult says.

This is not a new model, it is done all around the world.

He says it would be difficult to determine what is and whats not an

attraction provider in Queenstown.

Source: Otago Daily Times

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