Airbnb: A Threat to Arizona Hospitality?

Fear mongering, targeting Airbnb, is coming to Arizona.  The Tucson Sentinel has come out with an article titled, “Experts fret Airbnb may hurt Arizona’a Hospitality Industry”. The article analyzes the potential impact of Airbnb on Arizona’s lodging industry and includes quotes from proponents of Airbnb and those that are against Airbnb.  As far as proponents of Airbnb, they are consumers looking for a place to stay and property owners with extra rooms or houses to rent.  Outspoken critics of Airbnb are of course entrenched hotels and governments that collect more tax revenue from lodging, but with the excuse being the safety of consumers.

The article also highlights objections from advocates of affordable housing in San Francisco.

“We have lost between 10,000-12,000 units of housing that have been converted into full-time tourist accommodations,” said Dale Carlson, co-founder of Share Better San Francisco, an organization that backed the proposition. “And this is at a time where we are suffering through one of the worst affordable housing crises in history. It’s unacceptable at a time where working class families are really struggling to stay in the city.”

In response to this objection, I have to ask… If there is a shortage of affordable housing in San Francisco, what is the cause?  Could it possibly be related to rent control or zoning restrictions?  Note: The proposition mentioned by Dale Carlson is Proposition F, which would have limited short-term rentals and imposed taxes on these transactions.  Thankfully, the proposition did not pass.

However, the award for best fear mongering against Airbnb in Arizona goes to David Kong, CEO of Best Western.  If you do not believe me, read this doozy:

While Phoenix-based Best Western declined an interview on the record, a spokesman pointed to CEO David Kong’s recent blog post on this issue. Kong wrote that Airbnb simply can’t provide the guest with needs he or she may have during their stay.

“Every room is different at Airbnb,” Kong wrote. “You can’t mingle with staff and fellow guests in a lobby. Need a document printed? Want your room cleaned at 11 p.m.? A wake up call with a friendly voice followed by a fresh, well-done complimentary breakfast? Need a suit pressed before your business meeting? You’re on your own with Airbnb.”

Saying that Airbnb can’t provide the guest with their needs is shown to be false by the fact that it servers 15 million guests worldwide and is still in business.  I’d hardly say that Airbnb isn’t serving its guests based on those facts.  As far as every room being different…  that’s part of the attraction for at least some of Airbnb’s guests who want a different taste of hospitality over a cookie cutter hotel.  And, I thought wake up calls were antiquated and on the outs in favor of cell phone alarms.  But, if you still want a wake up call from a live person, there is an app for that.  Besides, if consumers demand services that an Airbnb host doesn’t offer, they are still free to choose a hotel like Best Western.

Now, I want to end my post on a positive note and highlight the last quote in the article from Galen Collins, who is a professor at Northern Arizona University:

“This is just another competitor out there, attracting a large crowd,” Collins said. “And while I do believe they will take a good part of the market share, others will have to respond by adding extra value. It’s just the natural evolution for the business model.”

I think that sums it up perfectly!  Remember that the market is not always easy to navigate, and consumers can be fickle.  Therefore competitors in the market need to stay innovative if they wish to survive.  Speaking of innovation, Airbnb sells gift cards on Amazon!


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