Accommodation needs addressed

Another concert, another rush on Dunedin's accommodation sector. The global phenomenon that is Elton John will grace the Forsyth Barr Stadium stage early next year, as part of his farewell tour.

It will be a little more than eight years since the singer opened the stadium as a concert venue, highlighting just what it - and the city - was capable of hosting.

Since that time, numerous big acts and sporting events have come to Dunedin, and with them have come thousands of fans from beyond our city boundaries. Hotels, motels, camp grounds, private houses and every other manner of available accommodation have been booked and booked out - often at inflated prices.

Yet relatively few new accommodation providers have sprung up in the city to absorb what appears to be an acute need for extra beds.

It is easy to look at the few busy weekends and bemoan the lack of Dunedin accommodation. But commercial accommodation providers are not charities. They must repay the investment needed to create them, sustain year-round operations, pay what is usually a sizeable pool of staff and at the end of it all, turn a decent profit. It takes more than a few popular pop stars each year to service such an outlay.

Of course, Dunedin is showing it can meet accommodation demand year-round. While many of the city's summer sightseers have their lodging onboard cruise ships, Dunedin nevertheless appears to have been ''discovered'' by the tourist horde.

It is on people's tourist trails. It is featuring in the media - both traditional and social - in an almost uniformly positive manner. Those who do come rave about it. Dunedin is humming, and demand for beds is increasing.

Just a few years ago, such a trend would have created an acute conflict between accommodation supply and demand. But a collection of websites helping visitors find residential rooms or homes to stay short term has changed the accommodation landscape.

For a resort like Queenstown, demand is such - and housing supply is so constrained - that new hotel beds are a constant need. In Dunedin, a city with a large number of rental properties, the ability for private landlords to rent out rooms and homes short-term is more pronounced.

This needn't be seen as a bad thing, but some important factors must be kept in mind. Hotels, motels and the like pay for the privilege of hosting visitors to our city. Not only do they pay in rates and fees, they also must adhere to strict conditions ensuring their service - and their impact on neighbours - is appropriate.

Private landlords are, generally, not bound by the same fees and conditions, helping them undercut commercial operations. Meanwhile, Dunedin's resident population is growing, increasing demand for long-term housing in which families can live, grow and put down roots.

And our tourism, events and conference industries continue to grow and fuel demand for beds. There appears to be a need for more commercial accommodation in this growing, thriving city, yet for various reasons developers are largely staying on the sidelines.

While solving that problem is not simple and shouldn't be construed as such, Dunedin must continue to analyse the impact of short-term residential rentals. At the same time, the Dunedin City Council must, if not roll out the red carpet, at least ensure it is not hindering developers who are willing to invest in this city. Like it or not, tourism and events are large entries on the income side of Dunedin's balance sheet. For them to thrive the city will need more commercial accommodation options, and soon.

To succeed as a city we must be nimble, flexible and capable of pouncing on financial successes when they are in our crosshairs. To let our growing reputation as a destination be marred by an inability for visitors to find accommodation would be a legacy no city council should want.

Comments

The Elton John concert in Auckland unleashed thousand dollar for the night accommodation.

Sometimes, for concertgoers, it's best to stay at North Otago, or Milton.

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