Cayman’s very first Homeshare Summit was held by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism at the Margarittaville Conference Room on 4th September.
With the industry expanding by 100 percent to 760 Airbnb listing in 2019, DOT Director Rosa Harris noted that she expected that number to keep rising. As part of the exercise private property owners were briefed on what was expected of them and best practice.
“Homeshare is largely responsible for the increase in overnight stays by tourists in the past three years. The Kimpton Seafire resort, which opened in November 2016, was the last major hotel addition to the island. Since then, nearly 1,000 additional rooms have been added to the market,” she said.
Chamber of Commerce CEO Wil Pineau highlighted the efforts of regulators to keep of with the pace at which the market is expanding.
“New business opportunities can take off like a meteor and at times regulation comes after. Many times the government has to play catch up in this instances but there can be no compromise on quality.”
He added that in light of the fact that standards and quality are so high that, “There is not a lot of room for experimentation or anything too ‘funky’.”
The quality of Cayman’s product and the oversight that goes into making the Island’s industry world class is one that the Government is dedicated to making a priority and each property must go through a stringent set of criteria before being approved.
There is also a 13 percent tax on properties and if a person has more than two properties, they will have to apply for a business license to offer Airbnb services to those seeking more affordable accommodations and/or a more authentic Caymanian experience.
Once a property is approved there is also a probationary period.
According to Tourism Minister Moses KirKconnell, this direct contact with the people and ‘Caymankind' of approach is how tourism was founded in the Cayman Islands.
He explained that though the rise in this type of activity and the boom of Airbnb culture would make it more difficult for residents to find accommodation in apartments, the overall benefit to Cayman’s tourism product would mean that more people would benefit from the industry.
“The Cayman person who has an apartment to rent gets to know the person coming here….… “Homesharing hosts,” he added, “really become the ambassadors for the country. Our job is to facilitate this.”
The advent of Airbnb in Cayman comes after a decades long de facto decree that effectively barred private property owners from undertaking such measures as supplemental income.
As part of Wednesday’s Homeshare Summit, property owners were also treated to displays by Local vendors who offer a uniquely Caymanian experience in order to familiarize them with some of the more cultural offerings on Island.