Hotels offer new line of attack in bitter war with Airbnb
Thursday, August 24, 2017
It's not exactly breaking news that the hotel industry and Airbnb are at war. For the hotels, the latter is the upstart newcomer who stormed onto the scene and disrupted their business. Suddenly, they were no longer fighting each other but a new enemy who just couldn't be beaten down with scare tactics.
Airbnb opened avenues that we didn't believe existed. Affordable stay right in the heart of Manhattan? Almost sounds like an alternate universe!
It also opened a whole new world of opportunities for those looking for some extra income. Those who owned property could now register it as an Airbnb rental.
The hospitality sector didn't see this coming, and their reaction ranged from shock to outrage. Once they realized couldn't stop the juggernaut called Airbnb, most started pivoting and innovating on their offers.
The competition remains tough, and it's slowly growing ruthless. The latest attack against Airbnb, which has seen its fair share of downturns in 2016, comes from New York City's hotel industry. A harsh ad released a few weeks ago (see video above) equates the home-sharing site brand with terror and security concerns.
The ad links Airbnb directly with the Manchester bombing by citing how the bomber Salman Abedi received "massive packages" during his stay at a short-term rental apartment. The text in the ad reads, "Are you at risk?" Accompanied by ominous music, the ad puts fear into our hearts.
Anything that endangers the safety and security of our loved ones would have an immediate impact, and that's what they aimed for. Paid for by the Hotel Association of New York City along with the hotel workers union, the ad ran across networks and during prime-time TV for days.
The ad states that Airbnb has refused to provide law enforcement with the addresses of the 40,000 apartments in New York that are listed on its site, like it has done for other cities. It demands that all home-sharing sites, like Airbnb, should provide full location details of listed properties like street name and apartment number, town, and county, etc. — a clear tactic to sniff out the rentals.
Though it does not mention the specific legislation the hotel industry is backing, the ad offers a phone number to register complaints with the message to "stand up for New York's safety and security."
As it turned out later, the Manchester bomber did not receive the packages in an Airbnb rental. But the damage is already done. People are questioning Airbnb's policies and wondering about the dangers that lurk in unexpected places.
For some, it can be right in their living room. Hosts have begun to worry, but more importantly, their neighbors have begun to worry. While the Airbnb hosts may make plans to work with the company and vet their guests better, the neighbors have no vested interest in this. They just want better security for themselves and their loved ones. The one question that is resonating in their minds, "So who's in your building? Airbnb won't say."
Airbnb hosts in the city and company spokesman Peter Schottenfels slammed NYC and the makers of the ad by calling it an outrageous scare tactic. Just like hotels cannot predict whether their guests are racists or terrorists, home sharing sites cannot either. To accuse them of harboring terrorists would be the same as pointing fingers at hotels for lodging the 9/11 terrorists.
In fact, as the ad stated, Airbnb has been cooperating with the law enforcement in other cities like Chicago, San Francisco and New Orleans. They also run background checks on all U.S. residents.
It's war out there, but as we have seen, it's also treacherous territory. Hotels may want to think twice before attacking Airbnb; it could backfire.
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