by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Airbnb has more than 300 active listings across Grenada
- Grenada’s MOU was signed in 2017
- Grenada listed as No. 5 Airbnb Caribbean destination
On one hand, Airbnb has been hailed as a progressive move for the region’s tourism sector as more and more Caribbean islands ink Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the company.
In June 2017 Grenada joined a growing list of Caribbean countries — Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Cuba, Curacao, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands — involved in the home sharing movement.
Grenada’s MOU was signed between Airbnb’s Public Policy lead for Central America and the Caribbean, Shawn Sullivan and Minister of Tourism, Dr Clarice Modeste-Curwen. Since then Grenada is listed as the No. 5 Caribbean destination on Airbnb and had an 87% increase in bookings in 2018.
One of the many rental properties listed on Airbnb is a small 3-bedroom luxury apartment in Corinth, St David called Clarenceville Villa. Property owner Yvonne Drakes joined in 2016. The property sits comfortably on 2.5 acres near a river and offers an eco-friendly rental space for tourists wishing to have a getaway like no other.
Dion Drakes, Yvonne’s son, is in charge of the villa. His digital marketing expertise has helped propelled the business online. Drakes discussed the benefits that derived from listing their property on Airbnb. “I actually travelled and used Airbnb, so when mom told me that she was opening up her property to vacation rentals I suggested that we need to get on Airbnb because it is essentially the leader in the vacation rental space.”
He said, “Being on Airbnb has actually helped the business quite a bit. Initially although I got the listing on Airbnb they weren’t actually properly configured, and that was something that I did last year and since that time we have seen a dramatic increase in our inquiries as well as our bookings.”
While Airbnb helps individuals to leverage their small rental property in order to generate disposable income, the Grenada Hotel & Tourism Association (GHTA) has identified and is keeping an eye on the downside of having one’s property listed on Airbnb.
There are concerns that while the rise in popularity of Airbnb rental spaces means more money in the pockets of the average Grenadian, there is also a need to protect affordable housing stock for Grenadians in need of long-term rental space.
Jerry Rappaport, President of the GHTA said this situation must be monitored closely. “As you take apartments off the market for locals to rent and you are exclusively trying to rent them short term to tourists, it shrinks your residential apartment stock in Grenada. What that potentially means is that the price of apartments will start to rise so that can potentially have an adverse effect on our own people.”
Another issue that has been pointed out to the Government of Grenada by the GHTA relates to MOU signed with Airbnb. Rappaport said at present the MOU only covers rental properties that are 3 rooms and above, and he noted that in Grenada the majority of properties listed on Airbnb are less than 3 rooms.
“I know the government has been working with Airbnb, they signed off on an MOU that will cover all Airbnb properties 3 rooms and higher, that Airbnb will collect the taxes and then send them to Grenada. The problem we pointed out to the ministry at the time was that the majority of Airbnb properties are less than 3 rooms, so the majority of what we are covering right now does no cover the majority of the sector.”
Rappaport suggested that all properties listed on Airbnb in Grenada be properly licenced and to ensure that they have liability insurance. He also recommended that there is a list indicating where all guests are located on the island in case of emergency or natural disaster. “In the old days when there was a hurricane approaching Grenada, the hotels will get calls from the tourism authority checking to see what foreigners and where they were on the island, so if we had a major catastrophic event we would know where our guests were and how to deal with them. With the rise of Airbnb, now we’ve got people all over the island in many small properties that we are not aware of.”
The concerns raised by GHTA were brought to the attention of several rental property owners on the island who indicated that they are not fully aware of the MOU between Airbnb and government.
Drakes said they are in the process of upgrading their rental property to be able to accommodate guests for yoga retreats, corporate events and conferences. “I wasn’t aware that an MOU was signed by the government in relation to Airbnb and I don’t even know where to go to find that information. I don’t believe the government informed anyone. My mom was not aware, and she is the owner of this property. She was not given any notice,” said Drakes.
NOW Grenada brought the concerns expressed by the GHTA to the attention of the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) via email. Allison Hall, Quality Assurance Manager pointed out that the MOU signed between the Government of Grenada and Airbnb “makes reference to any room count.” In relation to registration and certification of rental properties, Hall stated that the relevant legislation is pending.
Airbnb has more than 300 active listings across Grenada.