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800% growth in Airbnb properties in the Island

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JERSEY has seen an explosion in the number of Airbnb properties – an increase of more than 800% in the last four years – and tourism bosses expect the trend to continue as the world enters a new age of travel.

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There are now 166 homes in Jersey listed on the globally-recognised website and app, which allow people to offer short-term lodgings or home stays for a fee. While this figure is nothing compared to the nearly 80,000 rooms and homes available in London, it is more than nine times the 18 that were available in Jersey just over four years ago.

Similarly the Island is now home to more than 500 registered hosts on free-accommodation site Couchsurfing. The worldwide initiative and website allows hosts to offer a spare bed or even a sofa for free for strangers to sleep on in their home for short stays.

Not all Jersey profiles on the site may be active but many of those that are say they offer a bed because they like meeting new people or have ‘couch-surfed’ elsewhere in the world.

Visit Jersey chief executive Keith Beecham said the rise in ‘sharing-type accommodation’ such as Airbnb or Couchsurfing was ‘great’ for the Island and an answer to consumer demand. Last year 725,000 visitors came to Jersey – a 3% increase on the previous year. They spent a total of £268million – a 10% increase on 2017. Visit Jersey have set a target of attracting one million visitors by 2030.

‘There is no doubt the sector is growing and will continue to grow. It’s demand-driven – people enjoy that intimate-stay option. We have seen a closing down of some guesthouses in the past decade but that has been replaced by the self-catering market with the likes of Airbnb. Equally some guesthouses offer their accommodation through Airbnb,’ said Mr Beecham.

Jersey properties on Airbnb range from private rooms in occupied houses for as a little as £30-a-night to a five-bedroom, four-bathroom luxury beach house on the Five Mile Road for £1,250 a night – the most expensive property listed in Jersey. That property is offered by a family of five who split their time between Jersey and the French surf spot of Hossegor where they also rent a luxury eight-bed home.

Mr Beecham said the tourism industry was now seeing growth in contrast to the trend for the previous two decades, and accommodation such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing ensured that Jersey provided options for all.

However, he said there needed to be some ‘regulation’ of the sharing accommodation market – not to create extra red tape but to increase fairness for others in the industry such as hoteliers and guesthouse owners who have to adhere to strict regulations.

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No licence or registration is needed to sublet a property to five or fewer people in the Island. However, those that do not have the authority to rent rooms, such as tenants whose contracts do not allow subletting and those restricted by mortgage or loan agreements, open themselves up to legal repercussions if they attempt to put their home on the site.

Islanders can, in theory, rent space in their homes within hours. Airbnb charge between 3% and 5%.

Mr Beecham said a ‘light-touch registration’, where Airbnb users have to acknowledge they are letting space by registering online, would be a start so that officials could at least keep track of what is on offer in Jersey.

The Tourism (Jersey) Law 1948 is currently being updated.

He added: ‘We are seeing a growing number of visitors in Jersey but existing businesses that I speak to are doing well and it would seem new initiatives through Airbnb are doing well too.

‘Existing business are not seeing their clients stopping and going to Airbnb instead so this is about growing rather than substituting. Similarly, people who enjoy Airbnb around the world are probably going to look for it here. We are now offering that option in abundance and if we were not they might not come here.’

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