Skift Take

Short-term apartment rentals and vacation-home rentals are two different animals, but the poll done for Airbnb, HomeAway, and TripAdvisor seeks to obfuscate the differences.

A poll commissioned by Airbnb, HomeAway, TripAdvisor, and Flipkey makes it appear that short-term rentals are going mainstream, and that hordes of American families are getting ready to vacation this summer in someone else’s urban apartment.

The three companies (Flipkey is a vacation rental arm of TripAdvisor) are members of the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, the Short Term Rental Advocacy Center, and their online poll found that “one in five American families plan to rent short-term this summer.”

The announcement that accompanied the poll findings read: “Poll finds Americans strongly support short-term rentals.”

Short-term rentals of the apartment-sharing variety are an appealing lodging option to some, but also controversial because they are often sublets, and sometimes prohibited by state or local ordinances.

But, the STRAC poll, conducted by an independent firm, Research Now, from June 17 to June 19, sanitizes the issues involved in short-term rentals by defining them in the poll as “a vacation rental for less than 30 days.”

Actual vacation rentals are mostly second homes in resort locations, and often have few of the legal or social issues associated with apartment shares and couch-surfing.

And, 20% of the 1,243 adult respondents in the poll indicated that they plan stay at a short-term rental on vacation in July or August.

The most popular reason (40%) behind using the short-term rental option was “more space/amenities/ability to bring family.”

That’s a perfectly valid reason for renting a vacation home instead of a hotel, but it isn’t necessarily an option when renting a room in an apartment.

Thus, if Airbnb and other short-term rental companies are hoping to publicize the poll results as an endorsement of their coming of age with the traveling public, that takeaway would seem to be misplaced.

The poll also is manipulative when it comes to regulatory issues as fighting overly aggressive regulation of short-term rentals and vacation rentals is the reason STRAC came into being in the first place.

The poll found that 75% of respondents to varying degrees supported “fair and reasonable rules to regulate the practice of short-term renting.”

On the other hand, 69% of respondents stated they oppose “laws and rules to restrict the practice of short-term renting.”

The poll never defines what “fair and reasonable” regulation is; nor does it spell out what the evil restrictive laws would look like.

One could argue that fair and reasonable regulation is also restrictive, but the complexities of all this are never detailed in the poll.

The questions are phrased in a way to elicit answers and public relations ammunition coinciding with STRAC’s mission to “advance smart short-term rental regulation that safeguards travelers, alleviates neighborhood concerns and provides a framework for ensuring compliance. Our goal is simple: To allow the short-term rental marketplace to continue to thrive to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

STRAC orchestrated the poll to benefit stakeholders, too.


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Tags: airbnb, homeaway, tripadvisor

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