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Calls for regulation amid WA Airbnb boom

Airbnb listings in WA have ballooned 50 per cent in the past year to about 8100, with owners raking in a total of more than $4.5 million a month, a report has found, prompting calls to regulate the growth of "quasi-hotels".

The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre report examined the growth of Airbnb in WA, as the state government looks to tourism as an alternative money-maker following the end of the mining boom.

Associate Professor Christof Pforr describes Airbnb as one of the most disruptive developments in tourism of the past decade, with the potential to provide new opportunities as well as threaten the conventional accommodation sector.

"About 25 per cent of WA's room capacity is provided via the online platform, with about six per cent of WA's international overnight visitor stays generated by Airbnb last year," he said.

Popular places include riverside and seaside suburbs in Perth and Fremantle, as well as Margaret River and Busselton in the South West region.

Tourists from Singapore and Malaysia made up 47 per cent of all WA Airbnb users in 2015.

But the report also found most Airbnb use was private, or occasional, with more than 80 per cent being single listings and occupancy rates at or below 20 per cent on average.

Policy responses noted in the report, which have been trialled elsewhere, include banning short-term residential leases and a more proactive approach of signing agreements with Airbnb.

Australian Hotels Association WA chief executive Bradley Woods said defined and transparent policies were required for all commercial short-stay accommodation providers.

"They need to comply with the same rules and local government regulations that licensed legal accommodation hotels and serviced apartments have to comply with," he said.

"The WA government has an opportunity to lead with fairer regulation of commercial accommodation and develop a model that allows for legal Airbnb operators to exist alongside hotels and serviced apartments.

"Planning guidelines should be developed for local government authorities to manage the sector while still delivering results for tourism, the economy and job creation."

Airbnb country manager Sam McDonagh said the company's growth was helping to "turbocharge" the WA economy and tourism.

"These results reinforce the urgent need for fair and progressive rules for home sharing in WA. Our community needs clarity and certainty if it is to continue to grow and support the economy," he said.