What's good for the goose is good for the Google. Or so Airbnb thinks.
Dennis' Online Travel Briefing
Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, Executive Editor and online travel rockstar Dennis Schaal will bring readers exclusive reporting and insight into the business of online travel and digital booking, and how this sector has an impact across the travel industry.
Online Travel This Week
Airbnb thinks it’s unfair that the European Commission is proposing increased data-sharing requirements on short-term rental providers across the zone, but Google seemingly is escaping the clampdown.
In a reply to the European Commission proposal on data collection and sharing made earlier in 2022, Airbnb issued a statement late last month noting that small players would have compliance requirements far less onerous than major short-term rental platforms, “or even more worryingly,” big actors such as “Google Travel, which allows for direct STR (Short-Term Rental) bookings and thus eludes the definition of ‘online short-term rental platform’ as set out” in the European Commission proposal.
Separately, although Airbnb’s global marketing strategy downplays Google when compared with Google-reliant Expedia and Booking.com, it is rare for Airbnb to so specifically be at loggerheads with Silicon Valley buddy Google.
Airbnb got its facts wrong in this instance because Google doesn’t do any “direct” short-term rental bookings. Google plays an indirect role in sending would-be vacation rental customers from Google to short-term rental booking platforms, but no direct booking role.
At any rate, it’s curious how Google Travel, which doesn’t actually process vacation rental bookings itself but serves as a marketing arm for players such as Booking.com, Vrbo, Tripadvisor, Sonder, Vacasa and many smaller companies, would contribute in implementing the European Commission proposal to provide booking data and host registration information. For example, Google has few, if any relationships with vacation rental hosts unless they are property management companies operating short-term rentals for homeowners or apartment dwellers.
Google is certainly a very important player — one of the most important — in the European accommodations market, but it phased out taking bookings on behalf of partners over the last year, and regardless Google previously only facilitated bookings for hotels, and not for vacation rentals.
The European Commission’s stated goals “are to harmonize and improve the framework for data generation and data sharing on STRs across the European Union, and to enhance transparency in the STR sector.”
Currently, data collection and sharing rules vary widely across the European Union, creating inequities and significant burdens on short-term rental booking sites because of the haphazard and varied nature of local requirements.
Airbnb made a good point about the compliance burdens of platforms when there are more than two dozen member states in the European Union, and it reminds one of how legislators sometimes pass laws without any real understanding of technology and the impact of their legislation.
“However, the architecture of the data-sharing framework remains national,” Airbnb stated. “The existence of 27 different ‘Single’ Data Entry Points will augment the likelihood of differences in how the technical interfaces are set-up by each Member State and lead to compliance delays as we have recently seen with our experiences of a national API in France. From our experience building these products, each technical difference between national systems will necessitate a dedicated product solution by the platform, which will incur significant compliance costs and new product builds for platforms and Member States and their local authorities.”
Airbnb would apparently like to see uniform short-term rental regulations across the European Union, which said short-term rentals make up about 25 percent of its lodging inventory.
Another weakness of the European Commission proposal is that it doesn’t address national laws that go beyond registration and data sharing, such as in Barcelona, where hosts even when present during the stay are practically banned from renting rooms, Airbnb stated. That is a contrast with other member states, where regulations are a lot more Airbnb-friendly.
In Airbnb’s view, standardized data collection and sharing with a single European Union entry point, as well as uniform short-term regulations across the region would benefit the company and its rivals — as long as the rules aren’t too stringent and Google would be subject to them too.
Neither Airbnb nor Google commented for this story.
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