PEI

'We're making real progress': Number of unlicensed tourism operators dwindling on P.E.I.

Tourism officials on P.E.I. say they're seeing a promising trend on the Island: they're handing out more operator licenses than ever before, while the number of people caught advertising accommodations without a license is dwindling.

Tourism PEI says education, regular monitoring of sites like Airbnb making the difference

Tourism officials on P.E.I. have spent time and resources trying to educate the public about the need to get licensed by the province before listing your property on sites like Airbnb.

Tourism officials on P.E.I. say they're seeing a promising trend on the Island: they're handing out more operator licenses than ever before, while the number of people caught advertising accommodations without a license is dwindling.

"We're making real progress here," said Janet Wood, P.E.I.'s tourism development manager. "It's been a long but effective process, we believe."

According to the department, from January to the end of July 2016, the province issued 60 new operator licenses. Over that same period this year, it has issued 230.  

It's been a long but effective process.- Janet Wood, P.E.I. tourism development manager 

Wood said most of those new licenses were for Islanders listing their home or cottage on Airbnb.  

Some, she said, only became licensed after being flagged by provincial compliance officers who monitor Airbnb and similar sites daily. 

But more and more, Wood said Islanders are being proactive, and getting licensed before listing their property. 

"We're really pleased with the attitude of the new operators," she said.  "And that comes from the awareness that's out there."

A year after saying he was concerned by the number of Islanders listing their properties on sites like Airbnb without a license, P.E.I.'s tourism Minister Heath MacDonald says things are 'trending in the right direction.'

Getting licensed is the law 

Over the past five years, as more Islanders have started renting out their homes and cottages online, Wood said her department and other industry groups have launched several awareness campaigns to educate people about the rules. 

She said some Islanders just aren't aware that before you can rent out your property as a tourist accommodation, you are required by law to pay a provincial licensing fee, and to have your home inspected and water tested. 

Wood said if you're caught operating without a license and refuse to comply, you will be fined. 

"It's really very important these days because there are a lot of horror stories out there of people showing up, and bedrooms are in basements without [proper windows], and the place is filthy. And we don't want that happening on P.E.I."

Fewer rule breakers 

P.E.I.'s tourism minister Heath MacDonald told CBC in May 2016 he was concerned by the number of Islanders listing their homes or cottages without a license. 

At the time, of the 300 Islanders on Airbnb, 56 didn't have a license. 

Now, that number's dropped to 30, and most of them, said the department, are likely in the process of getting licensed. 

"I think we're trending in the right direction," said MacDonald. "We have communication going out on a daily basis to anybody on a site that's not licensed that we're aware of. And P.E.I.'s small so we do have an advantage. We have a captive audience when they're on the Island, so we can get the message out."

MacDonald said ensuring Islanders are operating with a license is essential for tracking P.E.I.'s visitation numbers as well. 

As part of their licensing agreement, operators are required to report their monthly occupancy to the department.

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