Airbnb fires back at hotel industry

Airbnb fires back at hotel industry
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Airbnb is hitting back after the hotel industry touted its lobbying efforts against the online room-sharing service.

The company's head of policy, Christopher Lehane, accused hoteliers of price-gouging customers and called their fight against Airbnb a “campaign to punish the middle-class” in a letter Wednesday.

It's only the latest salvo in a long fight between Airbnb and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), which believes the startup is cutting into its business.

The fight escalated after the leak earlier this week of the AHLA's January board meeting minutes, obtained by The Hill and The New York Times, detailing the group's strategy to fight Airbnb.

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The AHLA took credit for some cities cracking down on Airbnb, including New York City’s move to strengthen laws barring residents from homesharing when they’re not present at their residence. And the group touted senators who raised safety and other concerns about Airbnb with the Federal Trade Commission, action which they said was sparked by their lobbying efforts.

Other documents obtained by The Hill highlighted the group's efforts to donate to “candidates who are pro-lodging and pro-employer” in 2016 and future elections.

AHLA’s head of communications and public relations Rosanna Maietta defended the group's stance.

“AHLA is a trade association, with a clear mandate and mission to vigorously advocate on behalf of the hospitality industry and its millions of employees,” Maietta said.

"It should come as no surprise that AHLA's members are united ... around a common goal: to protect communities and travelers from the commercial operators who use websites like Airbnb to run illegal hotels in residential properties, ignoring common sense zoning and safety regulations and civil rights laws that all lodging businesses must follow.”

But Airbnb in a letter to the AHLA Wednesday accused the group of trying to hurt middle-class property owners.

The Airbnb head of policy argued that “we ought to be able to agree that the middle-class family that shares their home while traveling is not a commercial operator running a business.”

In its minutes, the AHLA alleged that many of the listings on Airbnb are operated by commercial entities.  

Lehane also accused the AHLA of being inconsistent on homesharing. He said the group's board meeting showed support for “the rights of property owners to occasionally rent out a room or their home.” But he said Maietta's has also expressed support for “home sharing, where the owner is present during the guest's stay.”

Lehane called on the hotel lobby to be more transparent.

“To date, we know little about the organizations that fund your efforts to attack middle-class people who share their home,” he wrote. “We urge you to be transparent and immediately release specific details regarding the hotels that fund your efforts.”

Letter From Chris Lehane_4!19!17 (1) by Ali Breland on Scribd