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Two sides to Airbnb for Tourism Nova Scotia

MLAs concerned short-term rentals take housing away from Nova Scotians

2 min read
caption Michele Saran (left), CEO of Tourism Nova Scotia, answers questions on Aribnbs from MLAs on Tuesday.
Lucia Helder

Airbnbs may be a problem for some, but tourists expect them, the province’s top tourism official says.

“This is not a genie that’s gonna go back into the bottle,” Michele Saran, the CEO for Tourism Nova Scotia, said Tuesday. “This is something that our visitors are demanding.”

Saran appeared before the natural resources and economic development standing committee of the legislature. She presented a report on tourism, and MLAs questioned her on tourism’s relationship to short-term rentals.

Some MLAs were concerned about the lack of housing, partly caused by short-term rentals, for both workers and visitors in rural areas.

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The Nova Scotia government and the Halifax Regional Municipality have been looking for ways to regulate short-term rentals like Airbnbs. Surveys on short-term rentals for the province and HRM were completed this month.

A report from McGill University released this month for Halifax’s short-term rentals found that Halifax has a low rental vacancy rate of only 1.6 per cent. Housing that is put up on short-term rental sites like Airbnb limits long-term renters’ ability to find a place to live.

Saran noted that regulation is a municipal issue.

Regulating rentals

NDP MLA Lisa Roberts is concerned about a lack of affordable housing across the province. For example, she said, Lunenburg is having trouble keeping staff in the area because they can’t find housing, and staff are needed to run local businesses for tourists.

Roberts suggested temporary structures like mobile homes and luxury tents for tourists might be preferable to converting full season homes into Airbnbs.

Saran agreed with MLAs that more housing is needed in rural areas, but said accommodation sharing sites like Airbnb are attractive to potential visitors.

“If there’s no place to stay, people won’t come,” Saran said. Airbnb “is a distribution channel that our visitors are demanding to use.”

She said if there are no Airbnbs listed in Nova Scotia, that’s millions of people who are missing out on hearing about the province.

Anna Moran, director of research and policy for Tourism Nova Scotia, took questions with Saran. She said unique houses to vacation in on Airbnb “can be, in and of themselves, a reason to come to Nova Scotia.”

In the overall results for 2018, Nova Scotia had fewer visitors in 2018 than 2017. The Canada 150 celebrations drew in lots of tourists in 2017, according to reports from Tourism Nova Scotia. Still, the province earned more revenue than it did in 2017 with a total of $2.61 billion, continuing its four-year run of growth.

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About the author

Lucia Helder

Lucia Helder has interned at Maine Public and is the copy editor of the Dal Gazette.

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  1. S

    Shelley Beairsto

    I think it's dangerous though to equate all short-term rentals with the loss of long-term rental solutions. Many cottages, vacation homes, second homes in general, can be rented out on the short-term rental market when the owners are not using them. That is not taking away from long-term rental options, but is instead adding options for people thinking about visiting Nova Scotia. As well, I think in this article it was made clear that Saran agrees that rural Nova Scotia needs more housing options. The two initiatives, the continued development of AirBnB type rentals to boost tourism, and the development of more long-term rental options are not mutually exclusive. We have to be honest with ourselves, Nova Scotia needs tourism, and can't remain behind when it comes new and innovative travel options.
  2. J


    I think it's despicable that the province is only taking tourism into account for it's short term rental regulations. There is basically no considerations taken for actual residents.
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