In the ongoing battle between Airbnb and the hotel industry, it’s becoming a game of “he said, she said.”
In a report released Thursday conducted by CBRE Hotels’ Americas Research and funded by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the hotel industry argues Airbnb has increasingly become a commercial activity where hosts can rent mini hotels from their home — or various properties — while skirting many of the regulations and taxing schemes imposed on traditional hotels.
About 40 percent of Airbnb’s total national revenue during the period studied, October 2014 to September 2016, came from hosts who rent out two or more entire units — essentially operating as small businesses. In Miami, that figure is even higher — 57.3 percent — making it the highest of any of the 13 cities studied. That represents an increase of 105 percent over last year, the report said.
True home sharing, where the owner is available for the entire stay, now accounts for less than 20 percent of Airbnb’s revenue.
Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association
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“That is not home sharing,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the hotel association. “True home sharing, where the owner is available for the entire stay, now accounts for less than 20 percent of Airbnb’s revenue.”
The association funded a similar report last year that highlighted signs Airbnb was being increasingly used as a primary source of income, rather than an income supplement. Now, the association said, commercial use of Airbnb has grown even more. Compared to last year, the revenue from renting entire units grew 76 percent on average.
Airbnb refutes the validity of the report, saying CBRE used data from AirDNA, which scrapes Airbnb’s site. Scraping fails to record nuances in the platform, such as counting units listed as available rather than those that are actually booked, Airbnb maintains.
“This misleading, inaccurate report was bought and paid for by the big hotels and is the latest example of the industry’s willingness to say and do anything to protect their record profits, preserve their ability to price gouge consumers and squash their competition,” said Benjamin Breit, a spokesman for Airbnb. “As the AHLA already knows, many of their member inns, motels and hotels list rooms on our platform, so these are included in the very data on “commercial” listings the big hotels seem so concerned about.”
This misleading, inaccurate report was bought and paid for by the big hotels and is the latest example of the industry’s willingness to say and do anything to protect their record profits, preserve their ability to price gouge consumers and squash their competition.
Benjamin Breit, Airbnb spokesman
Jamie Lane, senior economist at CBRE, said the research firm was conservative in its estimates. But Airbnb takes serious issue with the numbers. The report claims the home-sharing site has 7,600 hosts in Miami; Airbnb said the real number is about 3,900. The report says 57 percent of hosts have two or more listings; Airbnb puts that number at 10 percent. CBRE said the site’s annual Miami revenue is $110 million; Airbnb said the correct figure is $18 million.
According to data Airbnb provided to the Miami Herald last year, Miami-Dade hosts made an average of $5,200 a year from renting on the platform between September 2015 and September 2016, the same period now part of CBRE’s updated report.
Which report is right? It’s impossible to say. Few studies on the size, impact and usage of homesharing platforms like Airbnb come from a source without skin in the game. The ones that don’t are generally polls or consumer trend reports.
57.3 percent Percent of Miami’s total Airbnb revenue derived from multi-unit hosts, according to the CBRE report
One independent Pew Research Center study from May 2016 found that 63 percent of short-term rental platform users rent out entire units, rather than shared spaces, echoing some of the trends in the hotel association report. According to an independent poll by national polling firm Mason-Dixon Polling & Research conducted in Florida, 41 percent of Floridians think online platforms like Airbnb, HomeAway, Uber and Lyft help the local economy. About 12 percent said they felt those platforms hurt the state.
Locally, the short-term rental debate seeps into discussions about quality of life and resident rights, the rights of property owners to rent their units, the potential effect renting short-term could have on affordable housing and the role of government in policing short-term rentals.
$5,200 Average amount Miami-Dade Airbnb hosts made from September 2015 to September 2016, according to Airbnb data
In Miami-Dade, Airbnb and politicians in Miami Beach and the city of Miami have been in a deadlock.
Thursday, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado doubled down on a growing fight with the short-term rental platform, saying he wants the city to crack down on property owners who illegally rent out homes and apartments to tourists through the popular website.
“The pricey lobbyists from Airbnb will tell us that we can make a deal. That these people are good for business,” said Regalado, who argues that daily rentals impose a nuisance in the city’s sleepy neighborhoods. “There’s nothing to negotiate.”
Currently, in residential areas of the City of Miami, daily and weekly rentals are illegal under the zoning code, according to a 2015 opinion from the city’s zoning administrator. The city enforces the law on a complaints-basis, sending code officers out to homes to cite properties after people call 311 to report their neighbors.
The pricey lobbyists from Airbnb will tell us that we can make a deal. That these people are good for business There’s nothing to negotiate.
Tomás Regalado, Miami Mayor
But efforts to enforce the code can be complicated, said Regalado, since officers need to witness an offense in order to pursue a case. It’s not unusual for guests to refuse to come to the door, he said.
Regalado, who recently pulled back from legislation to reinforce Miami’s ban on short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods and strictly regulate the business elsewhere, thinks the solution lies in proactively pursuing Airbnb hosts. Thursday, he proposed a resolution to city commissioners that would ensure the city “vigorously” enforces its zoning laws.
The item was deferred by commissioners for two weeks, with downtown-area Commissioner Ken Russell in Japan.
It’s unclear exactly how aggressive Miami’s efforts are at the moment. Orlando Diez, the city’s interim code compliance director, said complaints are frequent, particularly in The Roads, but couldn’t immediately provide data on complaints and citations.
I can’t believe the mayor has these ideas. He doesn’t know what [cracking down] would do to the city.
Lazaro Vento, who owns and rents two houses in the Design District through Airbnb
According to a Miami Herald review of Airbnb data, about 2,300 people in the City of Miami have been active hosts on the home-sharing platform for the past year. Those users were responsible for hosting about 140,300 tourists who visited the city between February 2016 and February 2017, staying an average of four days.
“I can’t believe the mayor has these ideas,” Lazaro Vento, who owns and rents two houses in the Design District through Airbnb, said as he walked away from City Hall. “He doesn’t know what [cracking down] would do to the city.”
The fight with Regalado is only the latest complication for the popular tourism website. Miami Beach imposes $20,000 fines for illegal short-term rentals. Meanwhile, a tax agreement with the county has stalled.