Hotel-Affliliated Group Says ‘Violent Airbnb Parties Are Ending In Shootings And Fatalities’

Forbes Lifestyle 2 weeks ago
Vigil for the Airbnb shooting victims in Orinda
ORINDA, CA - NOVEMBER 5: A composite photo of Raymon Hill Jr. is displayed in a makeshift memorial ... [+] for the Airbnb house rental shooting victims during a vigil at Orinda Theatre Square in Orinda, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. Farley is survived by his 5-month pregnant girlfriend Johnay Smith. Later, the Orinda City Council and its residents would discuss the short-term rentals ordinance due to the mass shooting on Halloween night that killed five people and injured four others. (Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

The gloves appear to be off in the continuing battle between the hotel industry and its disruptive challenger Airbnb. The hotel industry, through what has been reported to be a “shell grassroots” organization, AirbnbWATCH, currently seems focused on portraying Airbnb rentals as a nexus of crime and violence.

In the last three weeks, this reporter received four emails from AirbnbWATCH regarding 42 shootings at short-term rentals and "the escalation of violent parties at Airbnb rentals resulting in shootings and fatalities in residential neighborhoods across the country.”  Subject lines included:

·      “Another Airbnb Party House Ends In Violence; Parents suing Airbnb”

·      “NEWSWEEK: Armed Robbery At Airbnb House Party One Week After CEO Said Company Would Ban Them”

·      “Victim’s Family To Sue Airbnb, Says CEO Lied After Halloween Party Shooting”

The last headline refers to an incident in Orinda, California where five people were shot to death on October 31. The Bay Area “party house,” rented through Airbnb, is now known as the “Deadly Orinda Airbnb Shooting.”

While there are legitimate concerns, some question whether the hotel industry is overplaying its hand by sharing such news about its rival.

“The consumer responds badly to mud-slinging and the risk for hotels is that they will be tainted by this approach,” says British journalist Katherine Doggrell, editor-in-chief, EMEA, Questex Hospitality. “Hotels themselves are not immune to awful incidents, as we saw with the attacks in Mumbai in 2008, and guests know this.”

To an outside observer, the hotel vs. Airbnb duel seems less dire than the rideshare/taxi/rental car battle royal. There, even “winners” like Uber have problems, particularly in terms of making money.

The hotel industry, by contrast, has continued to grow, even as spokespeople rail at Airbnb and its “illegal hotels.” The $200 billion US hotel industry is forecast to have its 10th consecutive year of growth in 2019, according to CBRE Hotels Americas Research. US hotel occupancy is also predicted to rise to 66.2%, a fifth straight record.

But the stakes are getting higher. American consumers spent more on Airbnb than on Hilton and its associated properties (Doubletree, Embassy Suites, etc) in 2018. According to Recode, “that means Airbnb now owns about 20 percent of the entire US consumer lodging market.” An Airbnb IPO (or direct listing) may happen next year; Forbes.com called Airbnb “a rare profitable unicorn...worth at least $38 billion.”

"With Airbnb at seven million listings, the hotel sector is starting to wake up to the threat it poses to performance and to access to investors' cash,” says Dogrell. “Some, like Accor, Marriott and Hilton, have responded by either moving into the sharing economy themselves, or launching brands which appeal to the typical sharing consumer. But the hotel sector has also responded with aggression, seeking to highlight terrible events such as the shooting in California in an attempt to deter potential users.”

Orinda fatal multiple shooting follow up
ORINDA, CA - NOVEMBER 2: Left side view of the house at 114 Lucille Way in Orinda, Calif., on ... [+] Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Five people died and several others injured in a Halloween party Thursday night at this Airbnb rental. (Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

In the Orinda shooting, Airbnb was criticized for a lax vetting process and a slow response to the family of the victims. After the shooting, Airbnb said it was banning “party houses,”.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky tweeted, “What happened on Thursday night in Orinda, CA was horrible. I feel for the families and neighbors impacted by this tragedy - we are working to support them.”

However, in a statement, Bay Area attorney Jesse Danoff, representing the family of a victim, wrote that despite a family request to for with funeral expenses, “in no way has Airbnb done anything to support the family of Mr. Hill. They have merely responded in public with platitudes and thoughts and prayers or have made nebulous promises to ‘do better’ and ‘improve trust.’"

Danoff blasted Airbnb (as well as the homeowners, hosts and the city itself) for “operating what are essentially unregulated nightclubs.” He added, “Airbnb only decided to change any of their policies when they saw public opinion turning against them after multiple lives were lost.”

After the statement was released, Airbnb said it would pay for the funerals and provide counseling to the victim’s families.

But a week later, an 18-year old was reportedly beaten at a “party house” in La Jolla, CA, according to AirbnbWATCH, which claimed, “It is clear that Airbnb is unable to police its own properties. It’s time local communities take action and hold short term rental companies like Airbnb accountable.”

While hotels are making safety efforts like supplying employee security devices, hotels are not crime-free zones themselves. Hotels have been the sites of sex trafficking, the alleged Dominque Strauss-Kahn hotel maid attack, the Mumbai and Mandalay Bay massacres and other serious attacks

NEWS: OCT 06 Las Vegas Mass Shooting
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 06: Workers board up one of the windows at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in ... [+] Las Vegas on October 6, 2017, where a gunman fired during a mass shooting that killed 59 people and injured more than 500 at the Route 91 Harvest Festival near Mandalay Bay on October 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Doug Kranz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Requests for comment on the emails about violence at Airbnb rentals were made to AirbnbWATCH and to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, (AHLA), which is listed as a supporter of AirbnbWATCH. Neither responded. An Airbnb spokesman declined comment as well.

But Dogrell, author of an upcoming book on Airbnb, Checking Out, thinks the hotels and Airbnb can co-exist. "There is room for a more cohesive legislative approach to the sharing economy and, with Airbnb approaching its IPO, it is likely to welcome one. Hotels need to realize that private rentals are now established in the eyes of consumers as a travel option for leisure or business, and that they can't be legislated away."


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