Online Platform Site Home-Sharing in Provincial Parks

On June 2nd Manitoba Lodges and Outfitter’s Association (MLOA) had been invited to make a presentation at the Pointe du Bois Cottager’s Association spring meeting about online accommodation sites and their affect on businesses and cottage owners in provincial parks. MLOA wanted to pass on information regarding  cottage rentals popping up throughout Manitoba’s Provincial Parks acting as bed and breakfast accommodations. Up to 83% of these types of rentals are actually unoccupied by the owners during the guest’s stay. Operating a bed and breakfast requires a business license from the regional Sustainable Development office and must meet the same criteria as all other legal accommodations resorts and lodges. Home-share rentals unoccupied by the owner are considered “Ghost Hotels” and are illegally operated in the parks.

And although the online accommodations platform fashions itself as a model of the sharing economy, in reality, big-time commercial operators are responsible for hundreds, up to over one thousand  listings by one world-wide property management company. Most of these types of listings, Airbnb, VRBO, etc., do not own any properties nor are they responsible for the maintenance of these properties. They collect fees for booking through their online sites without the regulation requirements and guidelines that lodges and accommodation resorts are enforced to maintain.

It didn’t take long to gain support from the cottagers in attendance, even though there was a cottager in attendance who posts a listing for his cottage on Airbnb (he claimed to have rented it out about 7 times in 2018). Concerns raised were vehicles parked along access roads or in other cottager’s driveways, huge, poorly watched campfires, late night outdoor noise, rowdiness and reckless water behaviour, among others. A local real estate agent mentioned that Airbnb’s are referred to as “party houses” and if they are next door or nearby to a real estate listing they are now the new obstacle considered a “deal breaker” to close a property sale in cottage country.

The common consensus among those in attendance was that, regardless of the online platform, cottagers did not want a neighbour renting to strangers that even the owner didn’t know. Most agreed enforcement of existing regulations in the parks bylaws is a resolution that will need to be better imposed to discourage illegal accommodations in provincial parks. Noting that the Cottager’s Handbook, which covers all provincial parks in Manitoba, hasn’t had adequate revisions to reflect the evolution of cottage owners since our grandparents, or our parents, started using the parks for family leisure enjoyment. Therefore immediate legislation to implement the fast-changing cultivation of tranquil environment versus opportunistic capital gain is urgently required.

Provincial Parks Cottager’s Handbook (last edition dated 1981 plus current online revisions) states that: 

The Manitoba Cottager’s Handbook has always stated that Businesses are present within most provincial park cottage subdivisions. Generally, however, they have been welcomed by their neighbours, and have provided valuable services to fellow cottagers in the form of accommodations, camping, guiding, grocery stores, liquor outlets, bait and tackle, boat rentals, etc. 

Manitoba Conservation requires existing cottage-based businesses to register, and has an established process that future such businesses must follow before becoming established. All businesses that have not already done so must submit a registration form to a Manitoba Conservation office. Forms are available from Parks and Natural Areas Branch.  

Anyone who receives remuneration for providing goods or services to others, and conducts some of the activities associated with providing those goods and services at a vacation home lot, is considered to be running a business at that vacation home lot, and must register. 

Any cottager wishing to begin or register a business needs to obtain: 

  • the written support of the local cottage association; 
  • the written support of all immediate neighbours who may be impacted; and; 
  • written authorization from Manitoba Conservation, through the local Natural Resource Officer; 
  • The Director of Parks and Natural Areas Branch may then authorize the business to operate.

Your MLOA will continue to express our concerns and advocate for further consultation while we continue to seek out resolutions suitable to our membership from government and online accommodation sites in Manito