When a municipal government looks to planning, zoning and bylaws, to be effective in the long term, it has to do so with a view to what is strategic. Decisions need to be taken with a view to long term impacts. Urban planning is somewhat the science of this. Long term economic development planning is part of this.
At the second meeting this last Sunday I heard a hotel/motel operator however say something that made me think about the impact STA's have on the ability of core commercial operators of hotels and motels to achieve healthy occupancy levels especially on the shoulder seasons.
It has been said that STA's bring needed tourist money to the area by extending stay duration. That's a reasonable statement. The actual impact of this I would argue however is overstated relative to the benefit of the operators of STA's. Many of these STA's have as a primary feature kitchen facilities for example and the primary draw of a cottage experience is the cottage, not shopping. They, if located in other than commercial areas, are less likely to provide leverage spending benefit than accommodations located within the commercial zone. Regardless there is some benefit. There is also an offset cost in terms of inhibition of permanent 4 seasons residence.
It is a characteristic of accommodation stock in any jurisdiction that it ages. Jurisdictions that suffer from lack of reinvestment in such accommodations for tourists will suffer as a result. Commercial buildings are generally constructed to support maintenance and the wear and tear that comes with the intended use. Maintenance is generally conducted. The same characteristics are not true of most residential properties pressed into STA use. The materials and methods of construction are simply different. Over time these will age and predictably age poorly. Inspection is as we know non-existant.
STA's are economic sugar. They bring a high that will be followed by a crash if they are too much of the overall mix of options and if they degrade the health of core commercial tourist accommodations that are properly inspected, built to standard, and maintained.
Clearly there is a place for STA's in the mix of accommodation. Those looking for a cottage experience, here for more than a room and a night or two in particular would prefer that. I think that a week long rental or more clearly falls in this camp.
I believe it is a fundamental truth that this area will never achieve 4 seasons economic tourist draw until and unless a core hotel/complex is established that can support that draw possibly (probably) with an indoor water facility. That may never happen, however I would suggest that it is less likely to happen if STA's are fulfilling all open demand and depressing the metric of Hotels RevPAR (revenue per available room).
The short term economic advantage of a few and the few real dollars that draw amounts to is hindering the growth and development of what remains core to the economic substrate of tourism: hotels.
STA's have a long term impact that needs to be weighed here. That balance may be in the concept of minimum stay's. 1-2-3 night stays vs 1-2-3-4 week stays are really quite different in terms of their impact. It is statistically unlikely that a hotel would see a visitor for those extended jurations. STA's that are longer stays are therefore not as impactful of Hotel development and investment, but room-by-the-night accommodations are certainly more so.
We know that disabled access, inspection, code standards, parking requirements, strict health controls all are dissimilar between commercial hotels and STA's along wth commercial tax basis. So we can talk about the matter of level playing fields, and other competitive matters, but I think that the reality is that we have to be AT LEAST cognizant that STA's ARE hurting a core commercial tourist facility that we need tactically and strategically.
This idea is borne out in studies that have shown a reduction in RevPAR for hotels as a result of unequal competitive fields. These studies have shown that Airbnb’s listings/offers do not merely supplement the lodging market, but rather show substitute characteristics in their long-term effects on hotel sales’ pattern.
We should note that STA's are located all over the place without the benefit of zoning control (well arguably flaunting zoning control today perhaps is a more accurate description). Zoning is what we do to make adjacent uses compatible, to drive growth in a controlled way to get the results we want. STA's do not necessarily cluster around a town center. They do not create the vibrant traffic that makes a tourist place hop. They do not provide the parking that hotels and motels close to the other commercial operators do and so they do not contribute to the way a town center works. (especially if located in Residential Zones and not existing Commercial zones)
So my point here is this: We have to be cognizant that Hotels are core and strategic to the economy here. We need to carefully consider the impact of STA's on this core tourism facility. That impact is empirically negative.