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Hotel Group Takes on Airbnb, Short-Term Rentals

By / May 6, 2014 (Airbnb press photo)

With their business model quickly growing while regulatory questions remain up in the air, Airbnb and its short-term rental competitors are hoping to maintain goodwill in local markets with a strong lobbying campaign. But a major hotel trade group is about to gear up a campaign of its own.

After years of success with a business model that’s shaken up the hotel industry, Airbnb is starting to feel some pressure.

One of the largest hotel trade groups is working on a campaign to take on the growing “sharing economy” leader in cities across the country. But the startup, which is tied up with regulatory challenges in two of its largest markets, says it’s not looking for a fight. More details:

Attacking the grassroots: According to a recent report from travel news site Tnooz, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), a trade group that represents 52,000 properties nationwide, emailed its members informing them of its campaign to “highlight the bad, unfair, and in some cases unlawful business practices employed by short-term online rental companies and the lack of parity between safety, security, tax, and other requirements for hotels and short-term online rentals.” The association’s comments suggest a multi-tiered approach at the state, local, and federal levels to, among other things, pinpoint “the lack of compliance by short-term online rental companies with areas including provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, safety, occupancy rules, and tax reporting.”

Is there room for both? In comments to Mashable, Airbnb defended the short-term rental approach and suggested there’s room for the two business models to work side by side. “Over 11 million guests have had a safe, positive experience on Airbnb. We help promote positive experiences through a global trust and safety team available 24/7, authentic reviews, verified profile information, and the $1 Million Host Guarantee,” a company representative said. “The data show hotels are thriving as the sharing economy grows. We can and should work together to promote travel and tourism.”

Headaches in its strongest markets: The fresh lobbying campaign by the hotel industry comes as Airbnb is facing regulatory conflict in two large markets—the city of San Francisco and the state of New York. San Francisco is considering a ballot initiative that would place strict limits on short-term rentals in the city. In New York, the company is fighting a regulatory push by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to collect the names of Airbnb hosts, who the state argues are breaking a 2010 law intended to block the rise of unregulated hotels.

The sharing economy advocacy group Peers, of which Airbnb is a member, is currently leading petition campaigns in both New York and San Francisco.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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