Survey claims Airbnb is running "illegal hotels"

Alternative lodging operator and industry disruptor Airbnb ended 2015 proclaiming that the time had come for the company to begin "paying its fair share" of hotel taxes and reign in its growing stable of illegally-operated hotels. Now that the holidays are behind us, new data is showing that the company may not be in a rush to do so.

A study funded by the American Hotel & Lodging Association found that nearly 30 percent of Airbnb's revenue in 12 of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. came from "full-time operators" that offered rentals 360 days a year. Each of these operators averaged $140,000 in revenue during the period studied, accounting for $378 million in revenue for Airbnb. The AH&LA alleges these units that run all year long are acting as "illegal" hotels.

"Our industry thrives on competition each and every day, operating on a level and legal playing field," Katherine Lugar, president of the AH&LA, said in the report. She went on to claim that these illegal hotels are using Airbnb to avoid paying taxes and skip out on investing in health and safety standards that hotels are held accountable for.

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According to Fortune, Airbnb is now one of the Internet's fastest-growing travel sites. The company's website averaged 94.9 million monthly visits last year. The company is currently valued at $24 billion, and is anticipated to fight back against any actions taken to regulate it on the same level as the hotel industry.

While some cities have been hitting back against Airbnb and other short-term rental sites as early as 2013, the company continues to thrive in cities such as Houston. The Houston Chronicle reported that, though city spokesmen claim the state is responsible for monitoring safety and health regulations in short-term rentals, a spokesman from the Texas Department of State and Health Services claims it does not have a role in monitoring Airbnb or similar companies. As it stands, Houston is Airbnb's second-largest market in Texas (behind Austin), and with the Super Bowl coming to the city in 2017, the time to affect policy changes is running out.

Furthermore, Airbnb claims that recent reports, such as the aforementioned account from AH&LA, are using misleading data.

"Airbnb is succeeding for the very simple reason that our hosts - the vast majority of whom are middle-class people sharing their homes in order to create supplemental income - provide guests authentic, transformative experiences," Airbnb representative Nick Papas said in a statement.

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