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Exclusive video: hotel CEOs slam Airbnb

By James Wilkinson at the NYU Conference in New York

The CEOs of Marriott, IHG and Loews Hotels have slammed home rental operator Airbnb, calling for “a level playing field”.

Speaking at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in New York City yesterday [June 2 local time], Marriott International’s President and CEO Arne Sorenson, IHG’s CEO Richard Solomons and Loews Hotels Chairman Jonathan Tisch all had concerns about Airbnb’s being an unregulated accommodation provider.

“What we are after is a level playing field so if there are aspects of new businesses, digital or otherwise, and they are not treated the same way then there isn’t a level playing field and that concerns me,” Solomons said.

“Very importantly in our industry, rightly or wrongly and in many ways rightly, we are quite a regulated industry.

“If you stay in a hotel, that’s part of a brand or otherwise, you can expect in terms of safety, construction quality or whatever it might be, and I think a business that puts itself out there as a major player – in fact, their whole publicity spiel as they drive up their IPO value is ‘we’re bigger than Hilton, IHG and Marriott – as a brand and I think it’s important that consumers are protected.

“There is a whole issue about taxes paid or otherwise – we don’t know the ins and outs of it [hotels need to pay bed, state and local taxes in many instances] – but from my perspective we’ll see how [Airbnb] goes and it doesn’t really impact us directly.

“But if it’s going to grow and if there’s an opportunity for a brand to be in there, It’s something we’ll look at,” he said.

Arne Sorenson EDITED

Marriott’s CEO Arne Sorenson

Sorenson said Airbnb was a “new take on an old business” and “it makes perfect sense for them to be in it” noting that it was like the classic American holiday of renting a vacation home and “probably not a big threat” to the company.

“But when you start to see folks take five, 10 or 20 apartments in a residential building in downtown New York, and have their business be simply renting out apartments for Airbnb or their competitors, then you get into a space that’s different and raises all sorts of questions,” he said.

“That sounds like a lodging business and they should be paying taxes, they should probably have life safety and disabled rooms,” Sorenson said.

Tisch said there were issues around the non-payment of various taxes and employment.

“It is doing nothing to create jobs in the lodging industry,” he said.

To view the video, click on the YouTube image at the top of the page.

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