I’ve always felt that competition is a healthy thing. It pushes us to do better, to think differently, and to come up with new and innovative ways of working. The proliferation of hosting platforms in the accommodations and lodging market such as AirBnB, Homeaway and CorporateStays is no exception: in a very short period of time, hoteliers around the world have been forced to adjust not only to a new type of traveler, but to a new type of competitor as well.
The popularity of rental accommodations on hosting platforms is about more than just economics: the evolved traveler is informed, curious, and seeking what they believe to be a more authentic experience. They want to live like locals, escape the “tourist” label, and above all, they want the planning and booking of their stays to be as simple as possible.
San Francisco citizens were recently called upon to vote on Proposition F; a proposal requesting, among other points, to restrict the number of nights that any property can be rented out via a hosting platform to 75 per year. The proposal would have also empowered the city to slap fines on any hosting platform posting properties that aren’t registered as short-term rentals with the city of San Francisco. Following a multi-week (and close to 8-million-dollar) campaign spearheaded by AirBnB, a weak majority of voters in the Californian city rejected Proposition F. As is fair and just, democracy spoke and we must listen—but we still have a right to be heard.
What some are perhaps not aware of is that the extremely high volume of short-term rentals may be responsible for driving up apartment rents and average home values. These increases in turn may contribute to an acute lack of affordable housing in metropolitan areas. When a critical mass of citizens who work, live, play, and spend disposable income in their city can no longer afford to stay there, we need to ask ourselves who’s really benefiting from the wave of popularity this sharing economy currently enjoys.
Here in Canada, several bills are currently under review that would enforce a stricter regulation of hosting platforms offering short-term rentals. One example in Quebec is Bill 67, intended to reinforce the guidelines for tourist accommodations. In all likelihood, most individuals who rent out their properties via hosting websites don’t charge any taxes and don’t declare the income they earn from it. Ultimately this means that the profits generated by hosting platforms aren’t re-injected into our country’s or our provinces’ economies, our infrastructures, or our communities—and this is an issue I feel must be addressed.
As I previously stated, competition is a reality that every business must face; but it’s crucial that the competition is subject to the same zoning laws (many rental properties are located in areas where zoning laws do not permit hotels to operate), taxes and insurance (liability, fire, etc.) in order to act in a fair and responsible way in the community. Simply put, the rules should be the same for all players. This way, users have access to more choice and will undoubtedly be better protected . Without getting ahead of myself, it’s conceivable that hotel banners themselves could become medium- to long-term rental platforms that would ensure customers of apartments that meet the same hotel quality standards that customers value.
I sincerely hope that change will happen quickly so that we can all coexist and compete with fairness and transparency. As for me, I pledge to continue to offer our guests a hotel experience that is authentic and human. At Group Germain Hotels, it’s what we’ve been doing with all our heart for almost 30 years.