Residents make way as Fort William Airbnb hosts rake in £3.1m

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There are reportedly ‘several’ cases where families have been asked to make way for Airbnb guests in Fort William, raising doubts over the long-term viability of the holiday letting service in the area.

Fort William Community Council said it is aware of a number of instances where residents have been asked to move out of long-term rentals so that the owner can operate the property as an Airbnb holiday let.

This comes after the short-term letting platform announced that Fort William hosts earned a total of £3.1million last year – the fifth highest total income for a town in Scotland in 2018, higher than Oban (£2.6m) and Portree (£2.5m).

Fort William Community Council chairman, Alex Farquhar, said Airbnb hosting may be good for visitors and hosts, but it is having an adverse affect on the local housing market and economy.

‘For workers coming into the area, it’s a total disaster,’ said Mr Farquhar. ‘So many rooms and properties that were let out on a weekly or monthly basis and within the reach of workers are now impossible to find. We are certain that this is having a bad effect in the local economy, job market and many employers are having a very hard time getting workers.’

He continued: ‘For local people already in the area, we are aware of several families who have been asked to move out of long-term lets as the owners changed them to Airbnb. Has Airbnb actually generated any more visitors or generated any more income? Or has it just spread it out a bit?’

According to its recently published figures, guests and hosts on the platform generated more than £693 million for the Scotland economy in 2018 alone. Guest spending in Scottish communities accounted for £531 million, with each spending on average £100 per day on activities and food and drink.

The Fort William Accommodation Marketing Group (FWAMG), which represents B&Bs and guesthouses in the area, said that it was ‘not surprised’ to learn that Fort William had some of the highest earnings in Scotland, with some of its members now seeing less bookings than in previous years.

‘This all points to the fact that Airbnb has grown considerably in the area over the past few years with this year showing a huge increase in the number of places available on the site,’ said John Jarvis-Jones, vice-chairman of FWAMG.

‘As much as I welcome the competition that this brings, I am concerned that the playing field isn’t a level one. The guests could be staying in accommodation most of which doesn’t comply with the rules and regulations that we have to adhere to.’

Lochaber Chamber of Commerce chairman, Frazer Coupland, welcomes the revenue generated by Airbnb hosts to the local economy and said that all types of accommodation are reporting ‘very healthy’ occupancy numbers.

‘Airbnb is just one of the new routes to market that accommodation providers use,’ he said. ‘Lochaber Chamber of Commerce represents many hotels and self-catering accommodation providers among our diverse membership and we try our best to respond to the issues that they highlight us in constructive ways. There is also a real need for local resident accommodation in the area as our economy continues to grow and we are pleased to see plans to build more housing going ahead.’