Starwood Hotels founder Barry Sternlicht made one of his regular stops on morning financial news shows today and entered into a conversation with the hosts about the sharing economy in general and Airbnb in particular.
He used the appearance to lay out the case for how hotels can better compete with changes in the market, as well as what needs to happen to level the playing field.
“It’s undeniable that these industries are changing the landscape,” Sternlicht said. “I think hotel companies are working hard now to make their product not just a commodity or they’re going to get disintermediated by Airbnb and guys like that.”
But Sternlicht included criticism for the industry along with his praise, and pushed for local municipalities to do more to make sure that Airbnb did not have unfair advantages over traditional hotels.
“What we want in the lodging industry is a fair playing field,” he said. “We want them to pay the same occupancy taxes and sales taxes that guests in our hotels have to pay. That’s absolutely required. That is one of the big benefits Airbnb has, that they don’t pay those taxes. In cities like New York it’s a 20% load. So that’s not fair. And the unions will take care of that for us. Because they will argue — and they’re right — that it will hurt a lot of union jobs all over the country.”
When asked if his private investment group Starwood Capital would consider buying Airbnb, Sternlicht laughed. “I think Airbnb’s private market value is higher than the entire lodging sector in the United States combined. They should buy every hotel company.”
As for Sternlicht’s post-Starwood hotel work, he offered that his 1 Hotel properties were “Killing it.”