Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 27 2015

Why This Major Convention City Is Jumping Into Bed With Airbnb

By Carolyn Clark

As city leaders in San Francisco are gearing up for another vote on proposals that would place additional restrictions on Airbnb hosts, the well-known peer-to-peer rental company has found a new champion in the Bay Area: the San Francisco Travel Association.

San Francisco’s destination marketing organization generates 65 percent of its current budget from tax revenue from hotel rooms, but it sees some big potential with Airbnb owners. The organization has formed a new partnership with Airbnb that is designed to help connect tourism to neighborhoods and encourage visitors to live like locals. Many destination marketing organizations around the US are uncertain on how to approach Airbnb. Could it hurt their valued hotel partners? What does the lack of current regulation mean for the travel industry? San Francisco Travel Association isn’t waiting around for the answers.

“Airbnb is part of the evolution of the travel industry,” Joe D’Alessandro, President and CEO, San Francisco Travel Association, said. “As the destination marketing organization for San Francisco, we’ll continue our strong relationship with the hotel community as we leverage this new way of doing business.”

The announcement revealed the partnership is about more than helping leisure travelers find accommodations. San Francisco Travel Association plans to connect Airbnb with meeting and event planners to “achieve peak attendance during city-wide conventions and big events while meeting the diverse lodging preferences of a wide range of delegates coming to the city.”

SEE ALSO: Why Your Meeting Needs Your DMO Partner More Than Ever Before

How Are Other Destinations Talking About Airbnb?

There isn’t a lot of on-the-record chatter from other DMOs about their thoughts on the potential for working with Airbnb. However, at last week’s DMAI Annual Convention, rental properties and alternative accommodations fueled a conversation in a session titled “Shaping Short-Term Rental Regulation to Benefit the Whole Community.”

The biggest issue on the agenda was how destinations can collect tax revenue from the owners of short-term rental properties listed on Airbnb and other sites such as HomeAway and VRBO. Many cities have not determined how to deal with the soaring popularity of short-term rentals. However, Carl Shepherd, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, HomeAway, told the audience that they will want to figure out how to work with the community of rental owners.

“Why should destinations encourage short-term rentals?” Shepherd asked. “Because they’re very profitable for cities.”

Shepherd cited statistics from some of the most popular tourist destinations around the United States to highlight the importance of hotel alternatives for travel and tourism. The most notable numbers came from Florida where short-term rentals help fuel 322,000 jobs and account for more than $31 billion of economic impact.

“Florida doesn’t exist without short-term rentals,” Shepherd said.

What does the future hold for services like Airbnb and HomeAway? Do you expect other DMOs will follow San Francisco Travel’s approach and build partnerships with rental companies? Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts.

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