Airbnb: What’s the Problem? Readers Have Their Say

As a magazine editor for many years, I always know the one article that will produce a response from the readers. Many published stories, I’m sure, have you silently commenting to yourself, chatting about it with colleagues or, at the very least, thinking about what you just read. But, every so often, that one piece comes along—usually about a hot-button topic—and readers will actually take the time out of their busy schedules to write a letter to the editor.

The opinion piece in the Feb. 21 issue of Hotel Business (page 74) was one of those stories. And, I knew it as soon as Best Western Hotels & Resorts’ president and CEO David Kong gave it exclusively to me to publish. He, right in the title, “Airbnb: What’s the problem?” challenges the audience to engage in dialogue and begs an answer to his query—an answer he then provides in his perspective piece. In summary, Kong intelligently answers his title question with the premise that Airbnb, and the sharing economy for that matter, is good and is here to stay, but the issue remains that it is enabling commercial operators to illegally and unfairly eat into the livelihoods of the hotel industry.

As you know, I always encourage feedback and truly love when it pops into my inbox, so I was excited to not only get these following responses, but am equally excited to share them with you.


To the Editor,

Airbnb: What’s the Problem?

Problem is old guards and stalwarts champion putting time back. That never happens. Airbnb is a move forward, and instead of adapting and using their model to advance our business, we are wasting valuable time and resources to make them an illegal enterprise while Expedia did what it always does best: purchased an Airbnb competitor so as to adapt to market forces. Market forces so often seem illegal to old timers, but in the course of time, laws change and a new normal is reached. Look at weed, which is on way to becoming legal. Earlier it was booze….

The same brands that lament OTAs taking a lot of revenue now open their doors to all inventory so as to get more of the shrinking pie. Then, why not do so with Airbnb? Partnership with this newcomer can be done after helping it with what it lacks: infrastructure to get its members to adhere to laws concerning liability, health and lodging taxes.

When there is will and imagination, new ways of transacting business can be created, or our business model is doomed. In big cities, hotels will become apartments/studios, etc., and in small towns, hotels will just start failing and will struggle to find alternate uses. The brands will suffer because properties would not be in a position to keep up with brands’ requirements and royalty payments. Brand executives will be paid less so better talent would not come in to replace the outflowing talent pool. The industry as we know it will not be there.

Sadly, that role will fall on the next generation, who have to wait for these Baby Boomers to fade away. 

—KJ Shah, President, Very Fine Motels Inc.


To the Editor,

I must say I enjoyed your article on Airbnb and how it is affecting the hotel business.

I have been an on-the-road traveler since 1970 and stay approximately 100 nights per year away from home. A good deal of my travels are in the Southwest USA. As you know, a quiet, dark room is a prerequisite to a good night’s restful sleep.

Lately, I have begun to seek out places located in residential neighborhoods or close to healthcare facilities, and Airbnb properties are usually located in these quiet residential neighborhoods. Every city that I am aware of has a noise ordinance, and it is rare that it is enforced. If you stay at a property on a well-traveled street or thoroughfare, especially near a stop light, you will be subjected to an entire night of motorists attempting to break the sound barrier and motorcycles making more noise than an airplane departing at night. No community seems interested in enforcing these noise ordinances.

At an Airbnb property, you will usually sleep uninterrupted for the entire night and wake refreshed and ready to take on the day.

It may be that the local lodging trade organization should demand better enforcement of the ordinances already enacted by these communities. In doing so, they might be able to recapture some of the lost business going to Airbnb due to the relentless noise adjacent to their properties.

—Jerry Leonard, Former president of Leonard & Associates and Jayhawk Sales