Travel Tech Opens Door to Sharing-Economy Newcomers

By / Aug 1, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The Travel Technology Association, once the exclusive domain of Priceline and Expedia, is planning to work with new members known for their disruptive tendencies—particularly Airbnb and TripAdvisor.

A lot has changed in the world of online travel since the Travel Technology Association started as the Interactive Travel Services Association in 1999.

And now the trade group is working to reflect those changes, reaching out to a set of new players with different strategies but the same goal—to make it easier for you to get a good night’s sleep. More details:

About the new members: Initially counting online stalwarts like Expedia, Priceline, and Orbitz among its ranks, Travel Tech is starting to give some love to the second wave of travel-service startups. Last month, the association announced it had added a few members that are more commonly associated with the sharing economy: Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and HomeAway. Each of these firms offers short-term rentals—in the case of TripAdvisor, through its FlipKey vacation-rental service. The concept is growing in influence—8 percent of U.S. travelers and 14 percent of international travelers booked a private residence through one of the services in the first quarter of 2014, according to GlobalWebIndex statistics reported by eMarketer.

Shared interests: Travel Tech saw common ground among the Old Guard and the new members—and a way to help out the entire ecosystem. “These are relationships Travel Tech pursued because we saw a convergence on the policy issues faced by all travel intermediaries, whether they’re short-term rental companies, online travel companies, global distribution systems, or other dynamic innovators that connect travel suppliers and travel consumers,” Travel Tech spokesperson Philip Mindari told Travel Weekly.

Potential leverage? The companies  joining Travel Tech are feeling increasing regulatory pressure, with large cities going after Airbnb renters in particular over tax liability issues. (Airbnb has worked on its ground game, playing a key role in launching the advocacy group Peers.) Travel Tech emphasizes that it will not change its policies on short-term rental laws—though it will fight for the laws to be made clearer. “As short-term rentals grow in popularity,” Mindari told Skift, “we will be working with communities, local residents, and short-term rental providers to share information, establish best practices, and advance smart short-term rental regulation that safeguards travelers, assuages community concerns, and provides a framework for ensuring compliance.”

The short-term rental services are also facing a battle from the hotel industry. In May, the American Hotel and Lodging Association reportedly launched a campaign to “highlight the bad, unfair, and in some cases unlawful business practices employed by short-term online rental companies.”

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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