Re Joe Gebbia’s Dec. 2 opinion-page article, “Airbnb lets visitors live like locals”: Gebbia, Airbnb’s co-founder and chief product officer, failed to mention some of the industry’s bad actors who threaten businesses like mine in Florida communities through illegal hotels.
For more than two decades, I have been the owner and operator of the Pelican Hotel & Café. We’ve worked hard and played by the rules to make this hotel a success. We’ve employed thousands of people over the years and provided them with pathways to careers in the hospitality industry.
Unfortunately, the future of our hotel (and others like it across the state) is being threatened by people who operate illegal hotels.
During the past few years, a growing number of commercial investors started buying properties and using online platforms like Airbnb and similar sites to take advantage of loopholes in short-term rental property laws. South Florida has become the epicenter of this activity, with an estimated 40 percent of Airbnb’s revenue in Miami coming from full-time investors, not simple peer-to-peer users.
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By operating in this manner, these investors are dodging taxes and disregarding the health and safety requirements that we in the hotel industry must abide by. This, obviously, puts our small businesses at a huge disadvantage.
The state Legislature should work immediately to address this issue and create a framework that brings short-term rental operators out of the shadows.
To be clear, I’m not advocating for the end of competition. I’m advocating for a level playing field. South Beach and our state’s tourism economy have a lot to lose if the Legislature does not stand against this threat to our industry, our residential communities and our way of life.
Stefano Frittella, owner, Pelican Hotel & Café,