Regulators and the hotel industry have long criticized Airbnb for enabling what amount to illegal hotels, arguing real-estate developers’ buy thousands of apartments specifically to rent out to Airbnb users. Earlier this month, they doubled down on their claims when a study published said the home-sharing service has turned into a business platform.
The report, conducted by CBRE Hotels America and funded by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, found that companies like Airbnb are “providing a platform for commercial operators to run illegitimate, unregulated and often illegal hotels in communities across the country.”
According to the study, 40% of Airbnb’s total national revenue during the period studied (Oct. 2014 to Sept. 2016) came from hosts who rent out two or more entire units. Commercial use of Airbnb has increased compared to last year alone, the association said, with revenue from renting entire units increasing 76% on average.
“That’s not home sharing,” AHLA president and CEO Katherine Lugar said. “True home sharing, where the owner is available for the entire stay, now accounts for less than 20% of Airbnb’s revenue.”
This notion challenges the idea that when staying at an Airbnb, travelers are getting the most authentic experience possible by staying at a local’s house. That’s one of the site’s major selling points, using it in ad campaigns like “Don’t Go There, Live There.”
Airbnb responded to the report, saying “this misleading, inaccurate report was bought and paid for by the big hotels and is the latest example of the industry’s willingness to say and do anything to protect their record profits, preserve their ability to price gouge consumers and squash their competition."
Since Airbnb came onto the scene in 2008, the hotel industry has had to reevaluate what the public was looking for – and they have risen to the challenge. Breaking free of its cookie cutter mold, hotel chains began adapting to the specific needs of their guests. Lifestyle brands have become one of the lodging industry’s fastest growing segments. Each is designed to feel like a boutique hotel, capitalizing on the experiential travel trend and the preferences of Millennials. Chains like Aloft by Starwood, Moxy Hotels from Marriott International and Canopy by Hilton, while all lifestyle brands, also benefit from name recognition and loyalty perks benefits. Independent boutique hotels meet these needs as well, providing smaller, more intimate properties with personalized service.
Meanwhile, Airbnb today announced it will be expanding into China. With a distinct brand, Aibiying, the company hopes to better connect with the new generation of Chinese travelers.