Hot topics for the travel industry and consumers



Whatever you do, don't annoy the voters!
New laws for Airbnb rentals to start in 2019 in NSW

The Castle is a great movie because it captures the emotional attachment Australians have to their home and to living a friendly and peaceful neighbourhood.

Town planning laws support this by strictly separating residential from business and commercial areas, with exceptions for home offices and occupations.

However, Airbnb style short-term rentals have disturbed the neighbours, especially in strata buildings, because the guests come and go frequently, some are noisy, some hold parties and some cause damage. They have disturbed the Local Councils because Airbnb rentals introduce a commercial activity into residential areas.

For the past three years, the NSW Government has been searching for a compromise between encouraging tourism and allowing people to make extra money on the one hand, and complaints by voters of increased levels of noise and disturbance in residential neighbourhoods on the other.

Now the NSW Government has introduced new laws to regulate short-term rentals.

In summary:

  • Homestays are legal all year round if the owner-occupier is renting a spare room, a flat or a studio as a short-term rental in their home. No Council approval is needed.
  • Whole house or apartment short-term rentals are legal up to 180 days per year, where the owner-investor is not present. This limit applies to Greater Sydney. Elsewhere in NSW, there is no upper limit on the number of days. No Council approval is needed.
  • If the apartment is in a strata building, the Owners Corporation can totally ban owner/investors from using their apartment for short-term rentals, but not owner/occupiers from using the apartment for short-term rentals when they are away, such as on holidays (for up to 180 days per year). A special by-law is needed, passed by a 75% majority, to ban short-term rentals
  • All hosts will need to register their property. Airbnb hosts, guests, holiday letting agents, etc will need to comply with a code of conduct to keep the neighbourhood peaceful, and observe rules for parking and garbage disposal.

Of course, there are many fine details. To find out more click Be ready for the new Airbnb / short-term letting laws which will start in 2019 in NSW



Meriton in trouble for filtering out negative guest reviews

The long arm of the law has caught Meriton Suites and has fined it $3 million for filtering out negative guest reviews, leaving the favourable reviews of its serviced apartments.

While Meriton is known as a high rise apartment builder, it has 13 high rise serviced apartment buildings in Sydney, Sydney Surrounds, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The hotel business is proving to be very successful, with 4 more high rise buildings of what it calls Meriton Suites under construction.

By encouraging guests to post reviews on TripAdviser, the world's largest travel website, a hotel can increase its ranking, gain more prominence, and increase bookings. To encourage guest reviews, TripAdvisor provides a service where if a hotel supplies it with the email addresses of its guests and an email template, then it will email the guests and prompt them to write reviews. It is called Review Express.

Meriton Suites knows that to prosper in the highly competitive accommodation industry, it needs to encourage favourable reviews. So it adopted a company policy that the check out clerk would ask "Have you enjoyed your stay?" If the response was negative, they would add 'MSA" to the guest's email address before sending it to TripAdvisor, to ensure it would 'bounce'. And if there was a major service disruption, such as lifts not working, they would not send the email address to TripAdvisor at all.

The Federal Court has held that this is deceptive conduct, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law. Meriton was ordered to pay a $3 million fine, to not engage in manipulating guest reviews for 3 years and to adopt a strict Compliance Policy.

The lesson for Meriton is to say ‘sorry’ and do its best to deal with the complaint.

For more information, click on my case note Meriton Suites fined $3m for manipulating TripAdvisor Reviews


New NSW policy welcomes short stay rentals (Airbnb style)

NSW gives the green light to owner-occupiers and investors to rent houses and home units for short stay (Airbnb style) rentals

To read more click here


Dreamworld tragedy highlights legal Duty of Care for theme park guests

Theme park visitors should not need to worry about being injured, let alone killed, on the rides. They expect to be in a safe environment - because of the legal duty of care the theme park operator owes to its guests.

The Thunder River Rapids Ride at Dreamworld was not safe on 25 October 2016. When the raft reached the top of the conveyor belt it collided with a stationary raft stuck at the top. The raft flipped, two adults were killed - crushed by the raft, two adults were killed - drowned when they fell through the slats in the conveyor belt, and two children were thrown clear.

Dreamworld breached its legal duty of care to maintain a safe ride, and will now face the consequences.

To read more click here


NSW Government favours tourists over residents in its short-term holiday letting policy

In a move that will please traditional holiday accommodation providers and online marketplace and hospitality services such as Airbnb and Stayz, the New South Wales Government has issued a policy paper which favours boosting short-term holiday letting in houses and apartments across the State.

The focus is: broadening the economic benefits of tourism - and this is why:

Internet platforms have generated new marketplaces for short-term holiday letting, benefiting consumers and providers by lowering transaction and accommodation costs, and providing opportunities to earn income from unused assets.

The policy paper is to be followed by a consultation paper to flesh out a legal framework for short-term holiday letting. The issues to be addressed are town planning, the development controls that should apply, compliance issues, a code of conduct, and monitoring.

The NSW Government proposes to pass on responsibility to the Local Councils. Strata owners are not to be given any power to control short-term lettings.

For more details, click on NSW Government is looking at options to give Short-Term Letting a legal framework

If a travel agent books an international flight, are they legally liable if they fail to advise the visa requirements for the flight destination?

There are some travel professionals who still think that they can book an international flight, and leave it to the customer to look after the visa requirements. They do this even though as travel professionals, they know that without a valid visa the customer will be denied boarding on the flight they have booked.

For more details click here

Is lunch included in my all-inclusive tour price?

The words All-inclusive are a powerful marketing tool which is used by many tour operators, accommodation providers and cruise lines.

So what does a traveller think when they read this in a brochure which is labelled All-Inclusive : WHAT'S INCLUDED? Coach travel throughout ... Six nights dinner, bed and continental breakfast at the Hotel ...

Is lunch included?

According to a ruling by the UK Advertising Standards Authority, the traveller was entitled to expect that lunch was included because that was the overall impression given by the description.

The lesson is that to avoid giving a misleading impression, if lunch is not included then it needs to be specifically stated - Lunch is not included. If nothing is mentioned about lunch then it is misleading to not include lunch.

For more details click here

Does Airbnb give Boutique Hotels and B&Bs a competitive edge?

Traditional hotel chains and large resorts have long dominated the accommodation industry because of their strong brand marketing and distribution channels.

But as with so many other industries, the internet is disrupting the traveller accommodation industry. Through internet booking platform operators such as Airbnb, Stayz, eDreams and, the internet is providing small accommodation providers with easy and cheap access to a global market for travellers, whether it is for business or pleasure.

There are four services which Airbnb provides, which give Boutique Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts a competitive edge over traditional hotels and resorts, and which allows them to by-pass the traditional travel agents (brick & mortar or online) in making bookings:

  • Marketing
  • Bookings Management
  • Payments Platform
  • Property Damage & Injuries cover

These services are increasing lodging occupancy and pricing power for small accommodation providers.

For more information about how Airbnb is empowering Boutique Hotels and B&Bs to build their business, Click Here

Why easy legal compliance is making Airbnb attractive for property owners in Australia

Airbnb describes itself in this way:

Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences in more than 34,000 cities and 191 countries. Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.

In this article we look at why Airbnb is attractive to property owners and what legalities need to be observed in Australia. Click Here

Sleaze has no place in the workplace
88% of sexual harassment complaints made to the Australian Human Rights Commission are workplace related. Unwanted and uninvited 'sharing' of sexual explicit photos and sexy texts and making comments of a sexual nature, are two forms of sexual harassment. In a recent decision by the Fair Work Commission, a Cabin Crew Supervisor on an unnamed airline was accused of sexual harassment which was primarily directed to female flight attendants.

Has another business started using your name? What can/must you do to stop them?
Sydney Medical Services has provided after-hours doctors for home visits since 1971 in the Sydney Metropolitan region. Last year. it had 76,885 home visits. Imagine its surprise when early this year it noticed brochures advertising Sydney Medical Services 2020 for after-hours doctors.

Why good lighting on the stairs reduces liability risk for leisure venues
Good lighting on stairways is a top priority when operating a club, bar or restaurant to reduce liability

There’s no longer any Travel Agents Licensing in Australia
The sun set upon travel agents licensing in Australia on 30 June 2014.

The Publican, the Patron, the Drinks and the Punch
Given that this incident happens on licensed premises, the publican has a duty of care to prevent injury to patrons, which they must fulfil or otherwise be responsible for compensation.

Are you thinking of setting up as a Tour Operator?
These are eight legal essentials to operating a tour operator business in Australia.

Are you a target for consumer claims?
Strategies for Travel Agents, Tour Operators, Airlines, Railway Operators and Accommodation Providers

Visas and passports can be costly!
Agents who overlook visa requirements....will find themselves footing the bill for their clients’ alternative travel, accommodation and meals

Just how suitable is that tour?
How far should a travel agent go to in recommending holiday arrangements?

It pays to double check availability!
Just because the brochure says a ski resort is open on a certain date, doesn’t mean that it will be...

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Disclaimer Notice

The articles in this website provide a summary of the law. They do not cover the whole of the relevant law on their subject matter.

Moreover, because legal language is avoided wherever possible, there may be some generalisations about the application of the law. Some provisions of the law referred to have exceptions or important qualifications. In most cases, your particular circumstances need to be taken into account when determining how the law applies to you.

For these reasons, the articles are not a substitute for professional advice. Nor can we accept any responsibility for any actions you may take or not take, after having read the articles.
Liability is limited by the Solicitors Scheme, approved under the Professional Standards Act 1994 (NSW)

Copyright Notice

The material in this newsletter is © Copyright. Anthony J. Cordato. Sydney 2007. A licence to use the material will be granted, on application, free of charge, where the material is to be used for self education or for non-profit purposes and an appropriate acknowledgement is made of the source of the material and the copyright. Permission may also be granted for commercial use of the material, on terms, on application. In all cases, unless permission is given, the reproduction of the material by written, electronic or other form is prohibited.
The pen and ink illustrations are by Yolande Bull, and are published with the kind permission of Lexis Nexis.

Anthony J. Cordato

© Copyright 2018 Cordato Partners