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  • Gavin King

    Tropic Now editor

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    Hundreds sign up to be Airbnb hosts in the Tropical North

    Ridesharing service Uber is struggling to enter the Cairns market, but its kindred spirit in the accommodation sector is booming here.

    Hundreds of homes across the Far North have opened their doors and joined the sharing economy revolution by signing up to accommodation service provider Airbnb.

    From a small spare room in Bentley Park to a palatial beachfront palace at Oak Beach, local homeowners are reaping the financial benefits of hosting short-term stays by globetrotting visitors.

    Guests can stay in a traditional Queenslander at Manoora for $31 per night or a two-bedroom apartment on Spence St near the Cairns CBD for $45 per night.

    There's even a bungalow in Bungalow for $99 per night.

    While ridesharing service in Uber has faced staunch opposition to its expansion plans - see this story for proof - Airbnb has flown under the radar when it comes to opposition from the established hotel sector.

    According to Airbnb, there are now more than 300 different offerings in Cairns. There are 31 rentals available for $35 or less, while the top end of the market includes Trinity Beach Palace for $2500 per night.

    New research by real estate firm PRDnationwide has found the average Australian Airbnb host earns $7100 a year from the site. But the high tourism traffic into Cairns means some local homeowners are averaging double that amount.

    Tania Cobham from Parramatta Park began as an Airbnb host five years ago. 

    "We love the flexibility of Airbnb, so I can book it out for family or when we want a break, and it's been very rewarding. We've been booked out pretty solidly for the whole time we've been a host," Tania said.

    "Our kids get to meet people from all over the world and we've made connections with some of our guests that will last a lifetime. We had an American here during a cyclone, and he was bunkered up with us in the main house playing cards so we'll never forget that experience.

    "The payment system is also fantastic. You never have to worry about the guest paying or chasing up bills. Airbnb takes 3% of the booking to handle all of that for hosts."

    But Tania notes that Airbnb has changed - possibly for the worst - since her family first signed up. With the company now valued at a staggering $25 billion, Airbnb has become more commercial and somewhat soulless.

    Despite it being more profitable than housing a long-term renter, Tania said she is considering delisting from Airbnb.

    These days, major hotel chains are listing rooms on the site as a form of advertising, while others treat it as a full-time business by managing a portfolio of properties. 

    "As Airbnb has grown and become more commercial, the nature of travellers and their expectations has changed," Tania said.

    "Early on it was for the really intrepid traveller, someone who wanted an authentic local experience.

    "Now more and more people are expecting a hotel experience and complain about the smallest things. We once had someone ask for a refund because they had a gecko in their room."

    Got an Airbnb story to share?

    Is it good for our economy, or does it hurt our hotel industry? Let us know.