Tourism stands firm on B&B restrictions

| 07/10/2015 | 41 Comments

bed-and-breakfast_compressed(CNS Business): The Cayman Islands appear to have no plans to relax the licensing, inspection or tax rules for local people offering bed and breakfast accommodation to visitors in their own homes. In a short statement, Department of Tourism officials told CNS Business, “The Cayman Islands Tourism Law is applied to all business accommodations that rent short term. All business of this type must be licensed through the Hotels Licensing Board. The standards address all accommodations categories.”

Some jurisdictions have carved out less stringent provisions for bed and breakfast providers, given the popularity of the growing informal accommodation market offerings online.

With the popularity of the Airbnb website, which allows homeowners all over the world to advertise rooms in their homes to travellers at a fraction of hotel prices, homeowners in Cayman have also wanted to rent rooms, but the DoT has said that anyone offering a room to visitors here must be inspected, licensed and pay full accommodation taxes.

Although local homeowners are offering en-suite rooms for as little as $50 a night, the government is making no special provisions to support the development of a formal B&B sector in Cayman. Some locals who were using the site to rent rooms in their homes have taken down their listings after officials began clamping down, and it appeared the immigration department was also warning homeowners after some visitors put down the address of their B&B accommodation on their arrival form.

The purpose of AirBnB is a platform for people to rent out rooms in their homes but the DoT has confirmed that they still need to undergo property inspections by the Department of Environmental Health, the Fire Service and the Hotel Licensing Board in order to gain a licence, and then the owners must pay all the relevant fees and taxes.


Category: Stay-over tourism, Tourism

Comments (41)

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  1. Nostalgia will kill you in business says:

    Cuba will over take cayman. Cuba is now the fastest growing airbnb market. The Cubans are resourceful the caymans are stubborn.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I did a quick Google search and the requirements actually appear to be pretty straightforward. All of the forms and instructions for criteria that must be met are online and they even have a video for pete’s sake. From what I can tell, it’s an annual licensing fee of $250 ($25/room but $250 minimum) and the DOT, DEH and fire inspections I assume are also annual but don’t appear to incur a fee. Then within 28 days of the end of each month you submit a simple form showing occupancy, a tax return, and the 13% tax collected from the occupants. If the inspectors have the capacity to handle an increase in the number of licensed properties, I really don’t see what the big deal is.

    The fire requirements *might* be a little stiff for someone renting out a room or apartment/house (it’s not clear, for example, whether things like sprinkler systems and exit lighting are actually required or if they just need to be there and working properly if the building code requires it for the property due to its size or other designation – which would make more sense) and if the inspections aren’t carried out year-round it could mean a lengthy delay in getting up and running, but I wouldn’t say anything is particularly onerous or impossible for an individual doing this on the side to meet. And the requirements are very clearly listed so you would know what to do and when and how. That being said, the law and other licensing requirements not in the legislation could probably be reviewed with attention to the new trend with smaller operators who only have one residential property or room that is being offered in any one place.

    DOT, it looks like you’re really missing an opportunity here to show how easy it is to become regularised if people have been listing on Airbnb without knowing they need to be licensed. It could even potentially boost room stock, lower the mean accommodation price through some competition, and get government some extra cash while still maintaining quality control over accommodations. Then give a little lead time and sanction those who refuse to fall into line. Yeah, the hotels will probably bitch but there are many people who don’t want to go the private route and prefer an established hotel. And didn’t we just hear that until the new hotels come online our air arrivals are going to flatten out due to limitations with room stock?

    A quick look on Airbnb shows a lot of listings that are also run through licensed short-term rental companies capitalising on the site’s popularity and willing to pay its fees to get their listings promoted to users. And while some private rooms (i.e. the renter doesn’t get the whole apartment/house) are in the $50 range a lot of the listings are very much in the range of the lower tier but still clean and nice hotels. Those in the lower range are also cheaper for a reason (you share facilities, less desirable location, etc). If you can’t make enough profit to cover the $250 or so per year in fees or take the time to fill out some forms and hand over a cheque to keep our accommodations sector safe and attractive, lowering the risk of bad experiences poisoning our tourism product, in my opinion you should find another way to make some extra cash if you need it.

  3. Cayman Went says:

    I have been waiting for CNS to tackle this subject – thank you CNS!

    My husband and I travel to Cayman frequently and rent a house on North Side that is DoT approved and owned by local Caymanians. Delightful. We usually plan one of our trips right about now as the kids head back to school and the island is lush and not so busy.

    This year, however, we were unable to make the trip. Our local airlines showing SOLD out for weeks or having the price tag of, roughly, 600 – 700 dollars ONE WAY before taxes. This is a steep increase as our fares for two people are between $1000-$1200 after taxes in years past.

    Broken hearted, I checked the airlines directly for weeks hoping for a sale or for seats to magically appear.

    One day, giving up on my Cayman trip, I checked the “Deals” section of one of our airlines and lo and behold Cayman packages were “ON SALE”!!!!! What? How would that happen when the week I was looking at was SOLD OUT?

    Before I continue, the packages were at hotels inland or showing prices with garden views and still more than our hotel, car rental, and airfare would have been together in past years. So that means one airline and one hotel had the monopoly for MORE money. In our case, we would have spent money on a flight, direct money with a DoT approved Caymanian family, a rental car company (and the tax and drivers license that brings in), gas, groceries, shops from one end of the island to the next, dive trip…. the list goes on.

    Every week I see the DoT touting Cayman Expedia packages at hotels on social media. Expedia takes nearly THIRTY percent from that property as a commission while pulling their own antics in the meanwhile. In my opinion and experience, Expedia and their branches are not trustworthy with horror stories from both travellers and lodging owners.

    My questions are as follows:

    1. Why does the DoT promote Expedia? They put the small hotels out business with their hands in their pockets. Add that to their questionable business practices and it seems like a hornet nest for the DoT which is supposed to be neutral. DoT is endorsing a company which hurts the small guy in tourism.

    2. Has the DoT put the hammer down with the airlines and are stopping the “B&B” business, and for that matter any hotel in Cayman, by limiting the number of non-package visitors who are not booking through a wholesaler from coming to Cayman? If so, what a shame.

    3. Is a big brother state really necessary Cayman? Truly. Someone rents out their room and people hate it and social media will take care of the rest. In this day with recessions running rampant, dollar values decreasing, shouldn’t the DoT be helping tourism?

    Someone really needs to look into this situation. We went to another Caribbean island this year and guess what? WE LOVED IT!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    It is absolutely necessary for the DOT to ensure that all accommodation offered to tourists meets the set standards for cleanliness, fire-safety etc, and I cannot for the life of me see how any reasonable person could disagree with this. I registered a house for tourist use and the process was very simple. Someone came round from the DOT and the Fire Department (together) to ensure the place was in good order and was not a fire hazard, the application was approved and then it was simply a case of submitting a form every month detailing the rents (if any) and paying a 10% tax. It was all very straightforward, and i would encourage anyone fancying having a go at B&B (which is a great option for visitors) to not feel intimidated by the prospect of becoming licensed.

    • Anonymous says:

      The argument for people having to license their home for safety reasons in order to legally accommodate tourists is bull. It can only work here in Cayman under the colonial system. The government just needs too say that they want to tax residents more and appease wealthy hotel owners and the Chamber of Commerce. The Cayman model of tourism is that we are this safe destination where natives won’t bother you because the police will arrest them. Your accommodation will fall within a recognized star rating system. The problem the establishment has with residents renting rooms in their homes to tourists, is that government and hotels aren’t getting a big piece of that pie. Every home that is built in the Cayman Islands must first pass and pay for planning permission and the relevant inspections. If it is ok for residents to live in their homes and accommodate guests free of charge after completing that process for the rest of time, should residents accept the argument that we must pay for a license and submit to annual inspections in order to charge tourists to stay in our homes? It can’t be to protect the precious reputation of the Cayman Islands tourism industry. If that was the case, it would be illegal to host tourists or guests for free for fear of bad hosts and homes ruining our precious reputation. Bull! In a free market people are free to choose products and services. Hotels in Cayman have hosted tourists for years without regard for promoting Cayman culture or Caymanians yet because they pay licenses and taxes they are the good guys. The people of the Cayman Islands don’t need the government, DOT, private business interests, or the Chamber of Commerce to protect our interests. We are free people and we can determine what’s best for us. For too long companies, governments, and greedy Caymanians have cooperated against the interest of Caymanians. You can buy a hotel room, a vote, but you can’t buy the soul or integrity of a Caymanian of value or any individual who has self-respect. The power structure has gone so far for so long that they refuse to be reasonable or have respect for citizens. Well guess what, the ammunition you have stockpiled, bought with tax payers money, you will soon get to use on citizens who fight back against your tyrannical rule.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You people just don’t get it.
    I’ve used airbnb in NYC and in Europe. Great experience. No one that uses airbnb expects what you lot are saying they ‘should’ have. This is not that kind of thing. You go online, look at the photos, read the reviews and make your decision. Breakfast is not included. At least not as a norm. There is also a couch surfing website. People are not expecting a hotel experience nor a typical ‘real’ B&B experience. That’s not what this is!!!!
    Wake up Cayman. You are refusing to move into this century with everything you balk against that you are not familiar with.
    Welcome to Dinosaur Island where we only pretend to know it’s 2015.

  6. SAM says:

    This is from the Trip Advisor and the property (advertised as 4starts) is allegedly regularly inspected, safe and clean:

    Reviewed April, 7 ,2015 After taking a risk on the elevators all week, my luck came to an end on the last full day at the resort. I ended up stuck in the elevator, which is my worst fear. It took the staff over 30 minutes to respond.

    Reviewed August 21, 2015, “Terrible Rooms”,The “stank” was all over the resort, the rooms had a musty stank that would just not go away

    Reviewed 2 weeks ago,Our room went uncleaned three days in a row,
    rooms that need to be cleaned and updated

    The problem is that the a/c will cool the room down to the 60’s even though you have it set at say 70 degrees. If you turn the air off, it becomes chokingly humid in the room.

    When we got to our room, it smelled musty because of water in the carpet next to the bathroom. The closet floor was soaked. Maintenance came to look at it and he recommended we get a different room so he could run fans to dry the carpet out.

    Our first room had a musty odor, stained carpet and bathrooms smelled like sewage. The next day we were moved to the correct room type we reserved, and this room had a wood floor but still the sewage smell in the bathroom, poor water drainage in bathtub (to your calf) despite repeat attempts to fix by staff (not to mention leaving the bathroom a mess when they finished fixing it).

    How in the world this hotel passes inspections year after year?

    • Anonymous says:

      Perhaps you should report this property.

      • Anonymous says:

        Everybody in the D of T knows this property on West Bay Road on SMB. It is famous for being a hole. Guess you just have too know the right people to get licensing approvals. Check the property out on Trip Advisor even without knowing the name it stands out like a sore thumb with its incredibly bad reviews. Certainly a disgrace to Cayman. And they want to license the one room places in private houses? What a joke.

  7. Anonymous says:

    DoT needs to wake up and encourage this to flourish based on the extremely successful Casa Particular system in Cuba rather than banning it. The problem here isn’t anything to do with standards or safety it’s simply that DoT have once again failed to do their job and exploit an excellent opportunity to increase stay over tourism.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The usual caynanian stubborness and ignorance,,,,,..

  9. Anonymous says:

    Who cares. The people who rent my house are told to say they are “friends” when they give the address. This is not a big problem.

    • Garfield says:

      8:05. You will find your friends will be interrogated by Immigration at the airport. In the past few weeks I have had both friends from Canada and also a couple of acquaintances interrogated on where they were staying and how much they were paying. This is not good for tourism especially for those tourists who have never been here before. We are going the way of Castro’s Cuba. What a damn shame.

  10. noone says:

    government are just bastard thieving!! They no longer care about cayman islands.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if the standards are published? or is it a case by case situation

    • Anonymous says:

      Judging by one ‘licensed’ resort where some of the guest rooms have black mould on the walls and ceiling I’d say it depends who you are and who you know.

    • Selena says:

      It is published, just impossible to find

    • Anonymous says:

      Go to the website and figure it out. It is not a Bed & Breakfast website!!! That is not what Airbnb is.

    • Anonymous says:

      The standards are published on the department of tourism website and the tourism department gives at least one free seminar a year to get everyone up to speed on what needs to happen to get your licence. It is a very simple process and is based on the number of bedrooms and people you wish to accommodate at a time.

    • Anonymous says:

      You can call the Department of Tourism and ask them . In addition, some guidelines are on their website. It’s not like the fees are expensive. In just a few nights, one year’s fees are made and it’s just simple safety regulations that are required. Government just wants to make sure that the properties are safe. When a fire breaks out or someone falls through a balcony rail or some other issue happens then it will be said that government should have done something.

    • Anonymous says:

      Case by case tends to be the way in many of these sorts of things. It permits more effective discrimination, nepotism and good old fashioned little islanderism.

    • Rhett says:

      Cayman Villas promotes these B&Bs…..curious….a Cayman owned company? Sorry for the negativity…we were ‘taken’….by Canadians, Hondurians, Jamaicans….NEVER by a Caymanian.

      • Anonymous says:

        Penny Cumber owns Cayman Villas…which has been in business 45 years renting out vacation rentals…not Bed and Breakfast’s.

  12. Anonymous says:

    There are many foreign work permit holders and local renters on Airbnb who are renting out their extra room(s) of their apartment/house that they rent from a Landlord who doesn’t even realize their tenant is doing this, they are not the homeowners. There has been problems with tourists renting places that infact are unsanitary, unsafe, in the ghettos unbeknown to them until they arrive in shock and horror and quickly hurry to try to find other accommodation in a panic.

    So, if someone wants to rent out a room in their OWN home or apartment that they OWN, then yes let them register with Department of Tourism. Tourists need to be safe and have sanitary accommodation, and work permit holders need to be banned from renting out rooms in their rental home/apartment behind their Landlord’s backs. That behavior does not ensure safety for the Tourists.

    Cayman’s Working Adult Population is close to half being foreigners on work permits. That is why in Cayman we need the Department of Tourism to stand guard over Tourism accommodations to keep our Tourist safe and in a clean healthy environment.

    I say YES to being Licensed and Registered with the Department of Tourism to accommodate Tourists in Cayman.

    Cayman needs to maintain a safe and clean experience and reputation to the Tourists, it is a small island.

    • Think of all possibilities says:

      I can’t believe someone would “dislike” this comment. Shame on you all.

    • Anonymous says:

      so its ok for your workers to live in slums you said

      apartment/house that they rent from a Landlord who doesn’t even realize their tenant is doing this, they are not the homeowners. There has been problems with tourists renting places that infact are unsanitary, unsafe, in the ghettos unbeknown to them until they arrive in shock and horror and quickly hurry to try to find other accommodation

      this is how your workers feel perhaps its time to regulate your employee housing

    • JTB says:

      It’s amazing – and quite impressive – how the headbangers and nutcases can turn absolutely any story into a Caymanians v Expats one

    • Anonymous says:

      Your basic point is correct about the potential to sub-let an apartment, the practice would likely expose the renter, owner and guest renter to a myriad of issues. Insurance would likely be invalidated, mortgage terms potentially breached, strata rules broken etc. If those that put their properties on air BnB were breaching the very basic rules in Cayman it would suggest that they haven’t done much in the way of investigating the more serious stuff.

      I’m not against the principal, but if it’s going to be allowed then people (everyone) need to know what they can/can’t do and the implications of that.

    • Anonymous says:

      They aren’t renting. They are licensing. What you are really advocating is discrimination and market protection of the oldest type, under a veneer of quality control. You are interested in your profit margins and nothing else.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It is absolutely beyond me why the Ministry of Tourism wants to put Bed & Breakfasts out of business in the Caymans. Obviously there are dinosaurs working in the Ministry Of Tourism and staff need to wake up and see what is happening in Jamaica, BVI, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, etc. Tourism in the Caribbean is a very competitive business and we are being left in the dust by our Caribbean neighbours. Very sad when someone who only rents one room has to be treated in the same manner as the Ritz Carlton, Westin & Marriott. Ridiculous by any standard.

    • Think of all possibilities says:

      They are not being “put out of business!” They are simply coming in line with the rest of us who own vacation properties and have been playing by the rules for a while now. If this law (which ALWAYS existed) threatens to put your b&b out of business, then you weren’t running a very profitable business to begin with.

    • Anonymous. says:

      I can understand having safety and inspection measures but wonder why the Tourism Ministry Cannot provide for the bed and breakfast sector by implementing a lower fee structure. Many visitors look forward to interacting with the locals and living in a less ostentatious setting for a few days would be ideal. It can be casual and safe at the same time and the Ministry should be creative enough to embrace this kind of accommodation . I, however do not think that every person who has a spare bed room should be allowed to accommodate paying visitors . The bed and breakfast experience needs to be well regulated, safe and respectable as the guest houses and hotels.

      • Anonymous says:

        Lower fee structure? Why dont you lower your profit structure?

      • Anonymous says:

        There is a lower structure and it only costs CI$250 a year. The hotels are in a different category. The rules are different for guest houses and condos and people should know what they are talking about before posting about this matter.

      • Anonymous says:

        The fees are very little, They can make it back in a few nights. They don’t pay the accommodation tax, the renter does.

      • Rhett says:

        Caymanians, not of paid for Status, in my humble opinion, should be given more leeway for rentals. The magnificence of knowledge, history, Caymankind Spirit, cannot ge surpassed!

        • Anonymous says:

          Really?? One rule for Caymanians and another for the dastardly expat. I’m shaking my head in disbelief at your comment

      • Rhett says:

        And the $10US a night CIG tax should be enforced and paid by those renting out…..

    • Anonymous says:

      Where are “the Caymans”? I looked in a new atlas & online and I could not locate this country. Did you mean The Cayman Islands? I did find that country.

    • Rhett says:

      Those who we know who rent out are Americans, RICH ones…give them ALL privilege to make more monies – why not? Rules, laws and regulations do not apply to them….they know what they can get away with, the same as Foreign Business owners. Who cares?

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