Peer-to-peer rental services such as Airbnb are becoming increasingly popular throughout the world, and Cayman is no exception.
Last year, some 8,600 guests stayed at the 470 Airbnb properties here, and roughly 6,000 Cayman residents used Airbnb properties when they left the territory. The 270 property owners in Cayman earned a combined $3.8 million, according to Airbnb policy associate Rachel DeLevie-Orey.
With government signing an agreement in March to work with Airbnb to promote tourism, the service is only expected to grow. Accordingly, Airbnb and Department of Tourism officials held a meeting in Grand Cayman on Tuesday to inform property holders of their legal obligations, and to receive feedback on what can be done to make conducting business easier.
Jessica Pawlik, the manager of the department’s tourism development services, outlined the process for property owners to become licensed.
Ms. Pawlik said people must pay a $250 fee and book inspections with the Department of Environmental Health, the Cayman Islands Fire Service and the Department of Tourism.
The entire licensing process can take between 60-90 days, she said. The tourism development services manager acknowledged that this can be an arduous process, but said that her department only has two hotel inspectors. Not being licensed can attract penalties of $100 per day per guest, she said.
When Ms. Pawlik asked the attendees how many of them are unlicensed, a nervous laughter broke out in the room. However, the lion’s share of properties are indeed licensed, according to Director of Tourism Rosa Harris, who said her department usually finds about 15-20 unlicensed properties per year.
Ms. Pawlik also advised Airbnb participants that as licensed accommodation providers, they are required to pay 13 percent of their revenue to government by the 28th day of each month.
One of the issues raised by Airbnb owners was that they cannot pay their taxes online, but have to pay them in person or mail them in.
Airbnb owners also stated that there are ambiguities in the tourism legislation that makes it unclear as to what their properties should include. For instance, hotels are required to have one bathroom per bedroom, but it is “open to interpretation” as to whether this applies to short-term rental properties, Ms. Harris acknowledged.
Ms. Harris said government officials are working to update Cayman’s tourism legislation in order to address these issues.
Despite the labyrinth of requirements, the lucrativeness of owning an Airbnb property in Cayman is well worth it. One property owner said he has made about $25,000 a year for the last four years, which has helped him greatly reduce the amount of time to pay off his mortgage.
Ms. Pawlik advised those interested in becoming Airbnb operators to go to www.visitcaymanislands.com/en-us/foi/licensing-inspections to see a complete checklist, to ensure they are not frustrated by unexpected requirements like depth markers for their pools.