Best Western CEO has concerns over Airbnb (but doesn’t mind selling rooms on it)
“As the name implies, I’ll take on issues that I’m passionate about,” Kong wrote in his opening piece.
That first article, titled Airbnb and the sharing economy, was Kong’s take on the omnipresent home-letting service, asking if Airbnb is a threat to hoteliers and the industry.
To Kong’s credit, he outlines – rather than dismisses – how Airbnb has emerged to become a major player in the industry, noting that “it is unlikely that this trend will be slowing down any time soon”.
Yet the long-serving boss of the chain (almost 12 years) doesn’t hide how he really feels about Airbnb.
- Taxation (“We pay hotel taxes, state, local and tourism taxes… there’s income, liquor and rental taxes, amongst others.”)
- Safety and compliance (“There remain tremendous gaps in regard to health, safety and disability compliance standards. Indeed, staying at an Airbnb room, or having an Airbnb guest living next-door, exposes one to a litany of risks that allows little in the way of recourse when things go terribly wrong.”)
- Local housing issues (“We should be concerned with commercial real estate landlords who buy up affordable housing to rent out on Airbnb. It is estimated that in New York City, in excess of 40% of Airbnb rentals belong to these landlords, who reaped nearly $175 million in the last year alone.”)
Kong then goes on to say that others should “follow New York’s lead” and impose fines on landlords who violate city legislation.
He ends with:
“We should also clearly identify the responsibility of Airbnb and other online short-term rental marketplaces. Through legislation, they should be required to report who is hosting, where and how much they charge.
“They should be required to collect the taxes owed and also verify that the rentals meet local, state and federal requirements on health, safety and disability access requirements. Only then can the interests of the public be truly protected.
“Additionally, and importantly, when matters such as short-term rentals are being considered at federal, state and local levels, we need to be involved and ensure our voices are heard – loud and clear.
“Only through our being involved in matters of this nature can we ensure that our interests, as well as the interests of the travelling public, are being protected.”
Curiously, eight months on and it appears that despite the boss’s worries over Airbnb, some Best Western hotels are happy to use Airbnb as a distribution channel for their rooms.
Take the Best Western at Albuquerque Airport in New Mexico:
This particular property is not alone.
There are countless other Best Western hotels using Airbnb to sell rooms to Airbnb users, including properties across the US, Indonesia, and elsewhere.
Some properties have been members for a number of years, long before Kong’s missive about issues around Airbnb.
Best Western was asked to outline its strategy to sell hotel rooms on Airbnb, citing Kong’s previous public statements about the company.
An official says it unable to comment.
Kevin May is a senior editor and one of the co-founders at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and will be publishing his first book - a biography about electronic band, Depeche Mode - soon.