The entrance of Airbnb, TripAdvisor and HomeAway into the ranks of the heretofore online travel agency-dominated Travel Technology Association is a sign of the sharing-economy times, and will give the newbies added clout when the butt heads with local regulators.
In a testament to the arrival of the sharing economy and alternative lodging choices, Airbnb, TripAdvisor and HomeAway have joined a travel tech advocacy group that until now has been the sole fiefdom of major online travel agencies and global distribution systems.
The three new members of the Washington, D.C.-based Travel Technology Association (Travel Tech) join Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline, Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport, and Vegas.com in the group.
Airbnb, TripAdvisor and HomeAway all offer peer-to-peer apartment rentals and/or vacation rentals, and where their joining Travel Tech gets real interesting is that the organization’s prime activity over the last few years has been in lobbying federal, state and local governments against their mounting of hotel tax occupancy lawsuits against the major online travel agencies.
Travel Tech argues that online travel agencies are merely the “middle men” in hotel bookings and shouldn’t be subject to paying hotel occupancy taxes.
Will Travel Tech now fight governmental authorities coming after Airbnb, TripAdvisor/Flipkey and HomeAway for any alleged tax liabilities?
Airbnb, for instance, instructs hosts to heed local law and collect occupancy or lodging taxes from guests in a variety of manners, when necessary.
In the announcement about the three companies joining the ranks of Travel Tech, president Steve Shur doesn’t directly address the tax issue, but notes the group “looks forward to being a resource for these cities as they develop policies and regulations for the future.”
Asked about the tax issue, Travel Tech spokesperson Philip Minardi says the group’s position on hotel occupancy taxes is unchanged by the expansion of its membership ranks.
“Travel Tech supports compliance with existing short-term rental laws, whether that be the collection of local taxes, registration requirements, or other provisions,” Minardi says. “However, we also believe any regulations on the short-term rental community should be easy to locate, understand, and comply with.”
“As short-term rentals grow in popularity, we will be working with communities, local residents, and short-term rental providers to share information, establish best practices, and advance smart short-term rental regulation that safeguards travelers, assuages community concerns, and provides a framework for ensuring compliance.”
Travel Tech’s membership now offers a diverse set of views on the future of lodging and travel.
While Travel Tech touts Airbnb as “trusted community marketplace,” Priceline Group CEO Darren Huston has stated in the past that the Priceline Group would be interested in exploring closer relationships with companies such as Airbnb, but wouldn’t do so until its legal issues are clarified.
Photo credit: Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb smiles during a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos January 23, 2014. Denis Balibouse / Reuters