BOOKED OUT: Hundreds put homes on Airbnb for carnival
WHEN tourists across Australia arrive in Toowoomba this weekend for the Carnival of Flowers, Edwina Farquhar will be one of the friendly faces greeting them.
The Toowoomba woman is one of hundreds of residents putting their homes and investment properties on Airbnb for visitors this weekend, acting as unofficial ambassadors for the Garden City.
Mrs Farquhar, whose three-bedroom Rangeville house will be filled with festival-goers this weekend, said people were looking to find quality accommodation in the heart of the city for carnival time.
"I think Airbnb is another unique difference, in that it is that home away from home," she said.
"We've only had about four vacant weekends in the past two months.
"There are more and more people trying it out, so there's definitely a lot more rooms now than a year ago.
"Most people are up here for a reason, whether it's for weddings or a graduation or the carnival."
Airbnb is also a potentially lucrative business opportunity, with rooms, houses and apartments going for an average of $200 a night, according to the website.
As of yesterday, just six rooms were still available to rent.
Traditional accommodation options in the Garden City are also in short supply this weekend, with all hotels and motels effectively booked up months in advance as the carnival weekend grows in stature and popularity.
Potters Boutique Hotel manager Peter Stronge said all 55 rooms in his venue were full.
"We started taking bookings back when we opened (in February)," he said.
"We're ecstatic with how the hotel has been received.
"A couple of the hoteliers have said they're booked way in advance."
The temporary closures of Burke and Wills Hotel and Quest Apartments for refurbishments and repairs is partially responsible for the room shortage, since the pair of CBD venues make up 10 per cent of Toowoomba's accommodation.
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But Toowoomba Councillor Geoff McDonald said visitors were arriving in the region much sooner than in previous years, placing more pressure on the sector.
"We're seeing visitors now in the parks that we'd normally see mid-week of carnival," he said.
"There are more people arriving earlier and some will stay later."
Cr McDonald said the carnival was worth about $24 million to the region in 2016.
A spokesman for Airbnb said the website was contributing to a new economy for tourists.
"By helping to grow and diversify tourism in Queensland, Airbnb is providing a significant economic boost to local communities and small businesses that wouldn't otherwise benefit from the tourist dollar," he said.
"The vast majority of our listings are outside traditional hotel districts so our guests live like a local by spending money at cafes, shops and restaurants not normally visited by tourists.
"The Airbnb community is contributing to a new economy."