Growing competition from short-term home rentals like those found on Airbnb are threatening the business of big hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt. To fight against the home rentals, the big hotel chains have used their lobbying association, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, to cause trouble for home owners and their customers.
The New York Times reports:
Last year, Airbnb underwent a rough regulatory patch.
The short-term rental company became a Federal Trade Commission target last summer after three senators asked for an investigation into how companies like Airbnb affect soaring housing costs. In October, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York signed a bill imposing steep fines on Airbnb hosts who break local housing rules.
The two actions appeared unrelated. But one group quietly took credit for both: the hotel industry.
In a presentation in November, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, a trade group that counts Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Hyatt Hotels as members, said the federal investigation and the New York bill were “notable accomplishments.”
Both were partly the result of a previously unreported plan that the hotel association started in early 2016 to thwart Airbnb. The plan was laid out in two separate documents that the organization presented to its board in November and January. In the documents, which The New York Times obtained, the group sketched out the progress it had already made against Airbnb, and described how it planned to rein in the start-up in the future.
The plan was a “multipronged, national campaign approach at the local, state and federal level,” according to the minutes of the association’s November board meeting.
Read more here.
Matthew Feeney has asked at the Cato Institute if Airbnb should use the First Amendment to protect itself from the big lobbyist driven witch hunt.
Should Airbnb look to the First Amendment as a shield in the struggle to survive amid regulatory backlash? Although debates about the sharing economy are often couched in discussions on the extent of the regulatory state, it’s worth keeping in mind that homeshare prohibitions like proposed legislation in New York ultimately rely on homeowners not being allowed to speak about their own property.
It’s tempting to think of Airbnb as a hotel chain. Yet, while Airbnb hosts do compete with hotels, they shouldn’t be labeled as such. After all, Airbnb hosts set their own prices, open and close at will, and are not subject to lodging demands from Airbnb’s San Francisco headquarters. Airbnb is a platform where those with spare properties or bedrooms can advertise their space, making the availability of the space known to anyone with an Internet connection.
In discussions about homesharing it’s important to remember that prohibitions necessarily restrict what homeowners can say about their properties while they seek to carry out peaceful and voluntary transactions.
Read more from Feeney here.