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How to Go Jamaican Airbnb

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Things are really looking up for the Jamaican Airbnb market.  It seems that everybody is getting into that business these days. Property owners who used to provide long term rentals are switching to the more lucrative short-term rental or home sharing market.

Even the government of Jamaica is excited at the economic prospects from the fast-growing Airbnb market.

So, how do you like to get your foot in the door and enjoy the benefits of having your own Airbnb business in Jamaica?

Not sure what Airbnb is? It is a platform operating online is located in San Francisco, California. The Airbnb website allows ordinary people to list their homes, villas, rooms or unique accommodations to visitors for an agreed price.

Essentially, all it takes is that extra space you are not using – convert it into a short-term rental for visitors. The Airbnb opportunity is great for homeowners who have a spare bedroom or two that won’t be used for a while, the empty nester, and the owner of a vacation or extra property.

 

How hard can the Jamaican Airbnb be?

By the sound of it, getting into the home sharing business is not hard at all. There are tons of opportunities in Jamaica Airbnb market for home sharing to grow.

After all, Jamaica is a popular tourist destination that attracts visitors from different countries who love the Jamaican vibe. Indeed, many tourists are repeat guests.

Hosting on the Jamaican Airbnb

It is not difficult to become a host on Airbnb as long as you have even a room to spare. Once you register on the Airbnb site to become a host you have full control over the price for your space, the rules visitors or guests must observe, how you or your representative interacts with the guest and the availability of your property.

Depending on the website you sign up with, you may get insurance coverage for your property. This coverage is protection against property damage and accidents guests may suffer.

Guests are Prescreened

Of course, you would need to ensure that the guests you receive are trustworthy. A reputable home sharing site will screen the prospective guest for you so you don’t have to be concerned about their character – and how they will treat your property. Information typically required from prospective guests include a verified email address and a confirmed telephone number. You can, if you choose, require additional information such as a recommendation from other hosts and verified identification.

What if you are still uncomfortable and want to further check out the potential guest before committing your space? A reputable Airbnb site will allow you to talk with the potential guest through their secure messaging tool for as long as takes.

Furthermore, you have the added protection of requiring identification from guests during the booking process. You can also review the reservations ahead of the scheduled date of arrival and reserve the right to refuse guests who may be suspicious.

Hosts with good reputations do well

Since you are in control of your space and what goes on in it, you can insist that guests abide by your house rules or risk termination.  So, if you are not tolerant of smoking and certain events on your property, you are free to make it known to the potential guest during the booking or reservation process and get their agreement.

You can also research guests who have used an Airbnb service before through reviews from their former hosts. Hosts who have been in the Airbnb business also have reviews left by guests that potential guests can look at. If you are just starting out, you won’t have guest reviews yet. You must pull out all the stops to make a good first impression.

The reality of the Jamaican Airbnb game is that hosts with good reputations do very well.

Hot investment niche

The Jamaican Airbnb niche has become a hot cash cow for the astute Jamaican investor who has taken the opportunity to snap up income properties and list them on the Airbnb websites. Persons have even paid off mortgages from going the Airbnb route. The short-term rental income in US currency has been a significant income stream for these property owners.

So strong is the income potential of Airbnb that a recent study on the impact of Airbnb in developing countries, presented at the UNWTO Sustainable Tourism Conference in Montego Bay in 2017, suggests that “up to 97 percent of the price of listings goes into the pockets of hosts”.  Hosts in developing countries worldwide have pocketed more than US$10 million in 2017.

Persons have gone as far as listing their homes on Airbnb sites and renting accommodations elsewhere to live in, or “kotch” with friends and relatives. This they do while their homes earn cash from a tidy flow of guests. If you are up to it, you can use that spare bedroom for short-term guest accommodations courtesy of Airbnb. You must prepare to share your personal amenities – kitchen and bathroom – with strangers.

Airbnb Explosion

The explosion in the number of Kingston and St. Andrew based Airbnb hosts can be traced to the strong demand for space from first- and second-generation Jamaicans and their children, who come to the island for the Christmas season, for funerals, weddings, and vacations. In other destinations, like Ironshore in Montego Bay, the Airbnb explosion has caused a revival in the popularity of villa accommodations that had suffered a blow by the growth of the all-inclusive hotel market n previous years.

At last count (2018), Airbnb listed approximately 4,000 Jamaican properties. Furthermore, hosts earn an average of US$2,500 each year.

Data from the Airbnb platform shows growth in the number of Jamaican hosts and property listings. The number of Jamaican hosts in 2017 reached 3,100 which was more than the 2,300 hosts in 2016. The number of properties listed in 2017 rose to 5,900 from the 4,000 figure in 2016. Use by visitors increased from 32,000 in 2016 to a staggering 59,500 in the space of a year.

This growth pattern is great news for persons wishing to invest in this game-changing endeavour. Coincidentally, the tourism market is experiencing similar growth – of more than 5 percent per year. The outlook for visitor arrivals in the medium to long term remains positive.

For many Jamaicans, the Airbnb solution is just what is needed to shore up a nest egg with a second source of steady income.

The Downside of Airbnb

But there is a downside to all that glitters.

The Airbnb movement in Jamaica has brought with it some problems that are hard to overlook. Persons of questionable character are entering the safety of Jamaica’s gated communities and not everyone is happy about this. If you live in a gated community, be prepared for complaints from neighbours about your guests and their shenanigans.

Also, you may need to check in with your by-laws to ensure that you are not potentially operating in breach of the rules governing your gated space.

Hiding Place for Fugitives

Without effective checks and balances in your operations, it is possible to harbor cash-rich criminals who seek short term rentals to hide. Even as Jamaica’s law enforcement seeks to crack down on scams and human trafficking, it is possible for fugitives to seek temporary shelter within the ambit of a Jamaican Airbnb.

You might be confident in your ability to sniff out potential criminals to avoid them. But it is better to be safe than sorry.

Hike in Rental Prices

An actual downside that has already shown its effect is the hike in rental costs islandwide. A quick browse through the daily newspapers for homes for rent will turn up two glaring issues. The first is that home prices have skyrocketed. The second is that prices, especially in prime real estate, are quoted in the US currency.

From a rational money-making point of view, it is not good business to rent a two-bedroom apartment in a prime residential community over the long term for US $1,500 per month. Not when the same property can fetch US$500 per night in short term rentals. This means university graduates, young professionals, and even working persons with families will be hard pressed to find a decent home in the Corporate Area that they can afford. Worse, it is proving difficult to find affordable space that property owners are willing to let for the long term.

That said, Jamaicans of every stripe are cashing in on the Airbnb market. The depressed community of Trench Town is one of a growing number of communities that have already grabbed the opportunity to list on Airbnb and receive guests. The opportunities for short-term rentals during special music and cultural events are tremendous.

 

Government is on Board

On August 16, 2018 Jamaica’s Prime Minister announced that hosts of Airbnb properties in Kingston earned a cool US$2.4 million in 2017.

Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism is on board, having signed an agreement with the operators of the Airbnb platform. According to Airbnb’s Shawn Sullivan, the Public Policy lead for Central America and the Caribbean,

“Airbnb travelers seek unique and authentic travel experiences and Jamaica offers just that.”

So, there is agreement on both sides that Jamaica is good for the Airbnb business. The Tourism Minister acknowledges that Jamaicans are buying into the Airbnb concept and are opening their homes to visitors in larger numbers. They are also earning handsomely as a result.

Tax Revenue Potential

Jamaica also stands to benefit from the tax revenue to be raised from the Airbnb operations on the island. According to the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett as reported in the Daily Gleaner on October 31, 2018, plans are being made for Airbnb platform to pay over contributions to the Guest Accommodation Room Tax (GART).

Minister Bartlett acknowledges that Airbnb has conceded its obligation to pay the requisite Jamaican taxes as a business with interests in Jamaica. In the short term, arrangements surround the entity’s contribution to the GART.

However, the Tax Administration Jamaica clarified that the Guest Accommodation Room Tax is payable on ‘occupied guest accommodations.’  Such accommodations include bed and breakfast, apartments, villas; motels, resort cottages; guest houses and timeshare facilities. Hence, the roughly 4,000 Jamaicans who host guests under Airbnb arrangements may contribute to the GART if Airbnb passes the costs on to them.

More Airbnb Tips

To top it off, Alica  Lyttle, CEO of POW!  Social Media and Internet Income Jamaica shared these five tips for getting into the Jamaican Airbnb market.

  1. Become a host. This is the most viable way to earn from the Airbnb platform. While it requires a high initial investment, the rewards are high and well worth it.
  2. Even without an entire property to list, you can list a private room for short-term rental. You may offer a room with own amenities (kitchen and bathroom) or just the room.
  3. You could be enterprising and find homes for rent that you can discuss with the landlord for agreement to list it on Airbnb. In this case, both you and your landlord will benefit as long as the landlord agrees for you to sub-let the property to Airbnb guests.
  4. Don’t have a property of your own? Offer to co-host by helping hosts of Airbnb properties with customer service or promotions. These co-hosting services are billed within the Airbnb platform. You and the host (property owner) would need to agree on your rate, which is usually between 10 and 20 percent). You get paid automatically once the guest pays.
  5. Furthermore, if you are creative and talented, you have the option to offer experiences for guests using the Airbnb platform. Musicians and performers could offer musical experiences or studio jam sessions. If you are knowledgeable about hot spots and nightlife, you could offer that service to Airbnb guests as well.

Are You Ready?

Are you excited yet? Ready to start? The first step is to create an account with the Airbnb platform. Select whether you have a property to list, providing co-hosting services, or delivering an experience.

Getting paid from the Airbnb platform is facilitated by Payoneer, Paypal, or the Western Union. To stand out above the crowd of properties now on the list, you would need to offer a different experience, or go above and beyond to deliver the best quality services to your guests.

Encouragingly, there are other sites you can collaborate with including Innclusive.com, Home-Away, and Bookings.com.

 

Peter Parchment is a highly trained professional with twelve (12) years senior executive experience in Policy Formulation, Monitoring & Evaluation, Strategic Planning in the Public Sector, and Social Research. A strategic thinker with strong problem-solving skills, people and resource management skills and the ability to think outside the box. Equipped with sound technical report writing and consultation facilitation skills and knowledgeable in the workings of Government and the Public Service. Experienced in working with rural and urban communities in a variety of locally and externally funded projects. He is also trained in Media and Communications and writes for online clients and publications. [email protected]

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Bankers Urged to Remain Alert to Electronic Fraud

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Bankers, you must remain aware of the different tools that mitigate attempts at electronic fraud. That is essentially the message from Jerome Smalling, Vice President of the Jamaica Bankers Association (JBA). He was speaking at the JBA’s seminar on anti-fraud held recently at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston. His warning comes against the background of the increased attempts by criminal elements at defrauding financial services institutions.

100 Seminar Participants Hear About e-Fraud Technologies

Over 100 persons participated in the anti-fraud seminar that was also held in association with the Jamaica Institute of Financial Services (JIFS). International and local experts covered topics including fraud trends, artificial intelligence, data protection, and the use of closed-circuit television images in preventing fraud. Participants got first-hand data and information on the capabilities of existing technology in perpetrating fraud.

Dirk Harrison, the Director of Prosecutions at the Integrity Commission, presented statistics reported by Transparency International that demonstrate the harmful effects of corruption on the progress of governance mechanisms.

Stay Ahead of Fraudsters – Dirk Harrison

Integrity Commission Jamaica

Harrison argued for a solution-oriented rather than a problem-oriented strategy to deal with fraud. “We must stay ahead of the fraudsters, who may ultimately be responsible for programming the same technology and machines on which we are to depend,” he said. Further, the Integrity Commission Director of Prosecutions emphasised how important it is to engage with the youth. He encouraged the seminar participants to reach out to the schools, youth clubs, and the cadet force to reinforce the message of “right and wrong,” and the consequences of choices.

Interestingly, Damian Small, the Director of Corporate Security at Scotiabank, argued that institutions must use a combination of strategies to effectively manage e-fraud. Such an approach, he explained, must be transparent and trustworthy for clients. Strategies must also create awareness on the different social engineering tactics that criminals use to collect data. Furthermore, fraud detection and prevention should also be objectives from an organisational perspective.

Law Enforcement Challenges and Weaknesses

But a report appearing in the media in 2018 highlighted major weaknesses in law-enforcement and the justice system in fighting fraud. Reportedly, in 2017, as electronic fraud spread, banks, and other financial institutions lost $750 million.

Also, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) data showed that between 2013 and 2018 the police Fraud Squad received reports on almost 3,400 alleged cases of fraud.

Unfortunately, the rate at which fraudsters are convicted in the island’s courts lags the arrest rate. Reportedly, the courts found only 115 persons guilty out of the 1,029 persons held for different rackets.  Even then, more than 50 percent of the convicted persons over the five years received their conviction only in 2017. Also, according to police data, between 2015 and 2016, the police Fraud Squad secured only three convictions for fraud.

Three!

Fraud Officers Sometimes Redeployed

Even arrests fall behind reports. During the five years to 2018, the police Fraud Squad received almost 2,000 fraud reports, but only arrested a little over 900 persons. Distressingly, the situation concerning arrests and convictions for electronic fraud is much worse.

The bottom line is that the Duke Street-based police Fraud Squad is woefully understaffed and under-resourced. Up to 2018, the police Fraud Squad had fewer than a dozen investigators assigned to tackle fraud islandwide. Even with this shortfall, the police high command sometimes redeploys these officers to other duties including Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) and the State of Emergency (SOE) in Western Jamaica.

Official Ambivalence Regarding e-Fraud

Interestingly, Lloyd Parchment, an anti-fraud expert at the Jamaica Bankers’ Association, suggested that official ambivalence regarding the crime of fraud contributed to the low conviction rate experienced in Jamaica. For one thing, many see fraud, particularly that against institutions like banks, as a victim-less, white-collar crime.

Parchment suggested that:

 “The justice system does not recognise fraud as a very important area of criminal activity; they do not treat it seriously.”

He further explained that the banking sector has urged the justice system to acknowledge fraud as a serious criminal offence. He also noted that the money gained from it is also fuelling more serious illegal activity. According to the JBA anti-fraud expert, banking sector leaders received only a lukewarm response from the justice ministry when they attempted dialogue on the matter of fraud.

Banks Choose Not to Report Fraud

Consequently, financial industry leaders are not so confident that investigations into the reported e-fraud cases will yield serious results. Furthermore, banks, in some cases, chose not to report fraud incidents to the police Fraud Squad as they do not see the point of doing so. Also, the substantial backlog of reported fraud cases investigated by the Fraud Squad is another disincentive for institutional victims of electronic fraud to report or follow up on fraud matters.

Parchment offered an example of what happened in a recent fraud incident:

“We had a guy recently who reaped millions of dollars in fraudulent funds from the banking industry through debit card frauds, and when we managed to engineer his arrest, and he was brought to court, he immediately pleaded guilty. He was slapped with a $200,000 fine. He then went and stole the money from a customer’s account to pay the fine. It didn’t even come out of his pocket, and he is back working the next day and continues to work right now. I have the evidence of that because we have the camera system.”

Optimistic Outlook

Participants in the recently held JBA/JIFS anti-fraud seminar got an earful on the scale of electronic fraud and the kinds of technology criminals use. Not only did presenters offer their experiences on the various ways financial institutions suffer at the hands of unscrupulous fraudsters, but they also got useful tips on how to address this growing problem.

The existing law enforcement weaknesses and challenges in the justice system, however, threaten any success in addressing the e-fraud monster.

But as an adage goes, “where there is life, there is hope”.

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BOJ Clinches Deal with Bloomberg To Allow Local FX Traders on Platform

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The Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) has clinched a deal with Bloomberg (USA) to access its advertising and trading platform.  BOJ’s arrangement with the international financial and media services provider will enable FX dealers to place Foreign Exchange rates on the Bloomberg platform in local and US currencies. Other dealers will then see them in real time.

The Deal with Bloomberg for B-Match Platform

John Robinson, BOJ’s Senior Deputy Governor announced the deal. He further disclosed that the deal with Bloomberg is an interim strategy. Dealers will, however, be able to use the Bloomberg trading platform come July 1, 2019. While this arrangement with Bloomberg is temporary, the BOJ expects to launch its own comprehensive trading platform in early 2020.

Robinson, in a media interview, further stated that Bloomberg is currently testing its B-Match model. That model enables dealers to trade among themselves. Bloomberg’s B-Match model is a data-driven service that offers information on clients so advertisers may present targeted opportunities. Bloomberg offers the same service to financial entities, such as FX dealers. They will be able to use specified information to match the FX needs of other Foreign Exchange dealers and entities.

Dealers Signing Up

Reportedly, traders and large buyers have already signed on to the Bloomberg platform. They have the advantage of seeing the rates at which other banks and institutions are selling the US dollars. These traders and buyers can see this information through a special terminal linked to the central clearinghouse system operated by the Bank of Jamaica. The BOJ official noted that it is necessary for dealers to have access to the Bloomberg terminal. This access will effectively allow them to work with their large clients who need foreign exchange from time to time.

As described by BOJ’s Deputy Governor Robinson using an example, “say JPS, which want to buy US$1 million, you can come onto the system and see who is selling and for what price, and you can buy through your dealer who will process the transaction using the Bloomberg B-Match model”.

However, in accordance with the deal with Bloomberg, the BOJ must pay a fee of US$2,000 per month for accessing the platform.

BOJ’s Comprehensive FX Trading Platform in the Works

Responding to a question on whether the BOJ would have a supervisory role in the Bloomberg B-Match system, Robinson indicated that the BOJ will coordinate rather than supervise the use of that platform. Each dealer will have his or her own terminal. The BOJ will, however, “shepherd them into sharing all this information”, Robinson explained.

Also, the BOJ’s comprehensive FX platform is still a work in progress. However, it will, in addition to the Bloomberg B-Match system, allow foreign exchange buyers to register and see the FX rates offered by each bank. FX buyers will then get the best price.

Bloomberg, a major provider of round the clock financial information and news, offers a professional analysis of financial data and news, as well as the analytical tools that financial professionals can use. The Bloomberg Terminal is one of its key income streams that is an integrated platform for streaming price data, trading information, news, and financial analysis to more than 300,000 customers globally.

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Sagicor Investments Jamaica Limited to Raise $4 Billion Through IPO

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Sagicor Financial

Another IPO is on the horizon. This time, it is the Sagicor Investments Jamaica Limited that is seeking to raise around $4 billion through an initial public offering. Sagicor Investments is offering shares in the Sagicor Select Funds Limited, which is a fund pool consisting of financial stocks that are listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange. The public offer will open on July 3 and close on July 17, 2019.

Sagicor Investments Jamaica Limited Offers 2.5 billion Stocks

Investors can purchase a total of 2.5 billion stock units at a price of $1.00 per unit. Also, they have the choice to purchase from an additional pool of 1.5 billion stock units should Sagicor Investments Limited choose to upsize the IPO.

The Sagicor IPO consists of shares in two classes – Class A shares offered to Sagicor Investment Limited clients and Class B shares offered to members of the public who subscribe to this initial public offer. The prospectus from Sagicor Investments Limited stated that the company was structured as a passive equity fund with separate classes of shares listed as a Financial Select Fund.

JSE Financial Index Grows 18%

Presently, the Financial Select Fund has invested $1.1 billion in 11 of the 23 financial stocks that constitute the Jamaica Stock Exchange Financial Index. The funds raised from this IPO will go toward acquiring more financial stocks. Sagicor Investments Limited aims to match the financial securities that constitute the JSE Financial Index as closely as possible.

With the Financial Select Fund, investors can track the Index’s value, the net asset value (NAV) of the Fund, and its market value daily. Such information is published on the Jamaica Stock Exchange website and will be published by the Sagicor Investment Jamaica Limited.

On March 1, 2019, the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) launched the JSE Financial Index. This Index consists of insurance companies, financial and microfinancing companies that are trading on the main and junior markets. On Thursday, June 20, 2019, the JSE Financial Index closed at 118 points, which represents an 18.25 percent growth since it was debuted.

While Sagicor leads the unit trust market with its Sigma branded unit trust packages, its Financial Select Fund focuses on a specific sector (financial). So, investors have the choice of specialising in a sector without suffering the accompanying concentration risk.

Why Buy into an IPO?

Investing in shares offered through an initial public offering is like entering an opportunity on the ground floor. Through this strategy, the investor benefits from significant gains once the shares hit the stock exchange. Once the IPO shares are listed on the stock exchange, it’s all systems go as the normal trading takes effect.

A quick look at the performance of some of the investment opportunities offered through IPOs from 2018 to date shows strong gains in price since they were offered to investors.

Look at this table below:

Table 1: Performance of Companies Offered through IPOs from 2018 to Date

Company Symbol Date of IPO IPO Price Closing Price June 20, 2019 % Change
Elite Diagnostic ELITE Feb. 2018 2.00 3.95 98%
Everything Fresh Limited EFRESH May 2018 2.50 1.49 -40%
Fontana Limited FTNA Dec. 2018 1.88 4.43 136%
iCreate Limited Ordinary Shares iCreate Jan / Feb, 2019 1.01 0.8 -21%
Indies Pharma Ordinary Shares INDIES July 2018 1.50 3.21 114%
Mayberry Jamaica Equities MJE July 2018 7.56 11.31 50%
Sygnus Credit Investments Limited JMD Ordinary Shares SCIJMD May 2018 13.72 13.39 -2%
Wigton Windfarm WIG April 2019 0.50 0.84 68%

 

So, as you consider whether to buy into this latest IPO, read the prospectus and talk with your broker or financial advisor.

 

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