New York hotel group uses shock tactics with anti-Airbnb advert

George Sell By George Sell
01 August 2017 | Updated 02 August 2017

US: A group representing New York hoteliers is running a 10-day $500,000 TV ad campaign calling for tighter regulation of Airbnb.

The 30-second advert, paid for by the Hotel Association of New York City and and Local 6, a local trade union, will run in prime morning and evening spots in New York City, on channels including CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, and during Yankees and Mets games.

Previous anti-Airbnb ad campaigns in New York have pointed out that it has been illegal to list and host guests for less than 30 days in multiunit buildings in the city since 2010.

But the new campaign says short-term rental listings could potentially be bases for terrorists, citing the recent terror attack in Manchester, whose perpetrator Salman Abedi used a short-term rental property as a base.

Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor at NYU's Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, said: "It is an effective ad despite the extreme scariness of the message about terrorists because it will cause many viewers to think more broadly about who is staying in units in their buildings and neighbourhoods, even if not terrorists, maybe others involved in illegal or troubling activity or with bad other bad behaviours."

Airbnb responded to the advert with a statement from public policy director Josh Meltzer which reads: "Earlier today, the Hotel Association of New York, an organization of which you are a due-paying member, began running television ads wrongly implying that Airbnb was connected to the tragic terrorist attacks that recently took place in Manchester, England.

"First and foremost, Airbnb had nothing to do with this tragedy, and using these attacks in a cynical corporate PR campaign is despicable. Your company and the front groups you fund may oppose Airbnb and middle class people who share their homes, but using a global terrorist attack to protect your bottom line is beyond the pale and should have no place in any civil discourse.

"Unfortunately, it's clear that these kinds of inappropriate ads will continue if you sit quietly on the sidelines. Accordingly, I am writing today to strongly urge you to break your silence and immediately demand your front group remove these advertisements from the airwaves.

"Making it clear that you will not tolerate or accept this kind of false, salacious and divisive rhetoric is quite literally the least you can do. Going forward, I hope you and your colleagues will come to the table in good faith so that we may have a rational dialogue on fair rules for home sharing.

"For our part, we have already taken a series of steps to ensure home sharing works for everyone in New York: Airbnb screens all hosts and guests globally against regulatory, terrorist, and sanctions watch lists. For United States residents, we also run background checks for certain felony convictions, sex offender registrations, or significant misdemeanors.

"We are working with additional governments around the world to identify where we can do more background checks. To our knowledge, we are one of the only major hospitality companies that conducts these checks. Do you conduct similar background checks of your guests?

"We have introduced a One Host, One Home policy to protect permanent housing. As of November 1, 2016, hosts are barred from listing more than one active entire home listing within the five boroughs, with certain exceptions for traditional B&Bs, long-term corporate housing, etc.

"We strongly support rules and regulations for home sharing and have backed legislation that would require Airbnb hosts to register with local authorities. Models for how this works can be seen in cities like Chicago, New Orleans, and Denver.

"Home sharing is an economic lifeline for families that has democratized travel for millions of people. As we have stated repeatedly, we are committed to working with everyone on fair rules for this practice but first, it is critical that we all reject the absurd, divisive rhetoric in these advertisements. I hope you will speak out immediately so we can move on and work together on some sensible rules of the road."

Click here to watch the advert.

Editor's Comment

You certainly can't accuse the Hotel Association of New York City of timidity - its latest anti-Airbnb advert is in your face, and uses scare tactics to suggest that any Airbnb apartment could potentially be harbouring a terrorist.

Citing the Manchester terror attacks is certainly an emotive, some might say insensitive move, particularly by a New York-based organisation.

It also has an element of swimming against the tide about it, particularly when seen against the backdrop of major hotel chains acquiring short-term rental companies and integrating them as part of their offer rather than adopting a 'them and us' stance. Accor and Wyndham are just two that spring to mind, with their recent acquisitions of Onefinestay and LoveHomeSwap.

One would also imagine that Airbnb has pretty deep pockets when it comes to legal fees, and will be monitoring ads such as these with a hawk-like vigilance. The battle lines are certainly drawn in the Big Apple.

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