Last fall, I wrote a column about how I was going to be a better host to the people visiting Moab.
At the time I wrote my column (“Why I’m trying to be a better tourist and host,” Moab Sun News, Dec. 13), I was preparing for a trip from Moab to Japan.
“This time, after we leave my cousin’s home, most of our lodging will be through Airbnb,” I wrote in the column. “Hopefully all of them, or at least most, will be ‘legal.’ But there is no way to know. I am going in spite of my ‘anti-overnight-rentals-in-residential-area’ stance.”
In January I went to Japan and enjoyed it very much. The people were gracious and helpful.
One young man came up to us in the subway and gave us directions to help us get on our way. People were frequently helpful, or at least tried to help. It was more or less successful depending on their English skills, as my Japanese was non-existent, except for the phrase “thank you.”
One time, we were lost trying find our accommodations. I was hesitant to ask for directions because I didn’t want to bother people. They might not be thrilled with American tourists staying in their neighborhood.
Also, I was aware that some of my friends in Moab have people knocking on their doors — because the people who run the overnight rental nextdoor aren’t there and don’t really live there. — and I have suggested to my friends to have a “Go away!” sign on the front of their house. Oops!
Now having been on the other side, I’m aware there are kinder and gentler ways to handle that, like this example in Japan.
Not only had we walked past our hotel, we had walked up a long, steep hill lugging our large suitcases. I had my ski boots with me. At the top of the hill, we were stymied: should we knock on someone’s door and ask?
Finally an extremely nice woman came out of her house inviting us into her home to figure it out. We loaded our large suitcases into her car and she drove us back down the hill to our hotel. We were grateful.
I enjoyed staying at the small guesthouses and small hotels the best. There was always someone at the front desk to touch base with, answer questions and converse with. I know that for some people, they like the fact that they’re totally left alone, but part of the travel experience for me is talking to people who live in the area.
Sometimes the owners would check-in when we first got there, or we never saw them at all. The range of quality for the same price was interesting. It sure showed that there is no regulation from the overnight rental apps.
More importantly, the people coming to rent the places do not know if they’re legal or illegal overnight rentals. I had no idea if the places where we stayed were hotels, guesthouses, private dwellings or apartment buildings (that looked suspiciously like they used to be student housing) until we got there. Who knows if the places were legal or not?
All of this has helped me to realize that it is up to the cities, counties and other local authorities to regulate overnight rentals. It’s not up to the people coming and staying, at least until there are some controls from the internet side of things. Wouldn’t it be great if illegal rentals couldn’t advertise?
We all know the enforcement is challenging, and this state makes it even more difficult by not allowing the fact that the overnight rentals are advertising to be proof of the fact that they have overnight rentals. Yes, it’s crazy.
Here is one idea. We do not have many fires in town anymore. With new codes, regulations and better materials, fires just aren’t that common. I understand the fire department helps with wildland fires, and burning cars, etc.; however, it seems that the paid firefighters on-duty could use some of their time driving around in the vehicles they already have (probably not the fire engines, although that would get attention) to assist with code enforcement.
It’s just one idea. Who else has other ideas that might make Moab and Grand County better equipped to handle the increasing issues that are facing our area?
Judy Powers moved from New York City in 1991 to live with her father in Castle Valley “for a few months.” More than 27 years later, she has had lots of different jobs in Moab, including 21 years as a Realtor. Now with her business, Powers with Animals (powerswithanimals.com), she gets to follow her passion: spending time with animals and sometimes training their humans.
“More importantly, the people coming to rent the places do not know if they’re legal or illegal overnight rentals. I had no idea if the places where we stayed were hotels, guesthouses, private dwellings or apartment buildings (that looked suspiciously like they used to be student housing) until we got there.”