Airbnb can't make up its mind if it's a friend or enemy of hotels

Airbnb may be a disruptor, but it doesn’t consider itself a sworn enemy of the hotel industry, said its CEO Brian Chesky. 

“We’d be open to partnering with them,” Chesky said on-stage at the Fortune Global Forum. “We’re not an anti-hotel brand. We’re another alternative way to travel.”

Executives from Marriott and Starwood are on “very, very friendly” terms with the startup, Chesky added.

Last week, Hilton’s CEO Chris Nasetta said he does not think the startup is a “major threat” to its business. Like Chesky, Nasetta described Hilton and Airbnb as two businesses going after different customers.

Indeed, some hotel companies have even begun partnerships with other home-sharing company to bring that customer segment into the fold. Hyatt announced a partnership in July with the British “Airbnb for the rich” startup, Onefinestay.

Chesky’s “we’re not anti-hotel” stance was a different tune, though, than what the home-sharing site had been saying an hour before Chesky took the stage.

Airbnb was fighting Prop F, a San Francisco ballot initiative that threatened to put a cap on the nights a host could rent out his or her place on the platform. 

Before the vote, Airbnb’s head of global policy, Chris Lehane, called the measure a “twin-headed attack lead by NIMBYs and the hotel industry.” 

The “No on Prop F” campaign, which Airbnb gave $US8 million to fight, even released a 15-second ad going after the New York hotel industry for its campaign contributions.

After it won the election, Airbnb paraded its victory against an “extreme, hotel-industry backed initiative.”

In a phone call with reporters (an hour before Chesky took the stage), the same rhetoric was repeated by its policy director Lehane, in harsh contrast to Chesky’s “we’re super friendly” relationship. 

That said, the “hotel industry” behind the ballot initiative was mostly hotel worker’s unions.

On stage, Chesky admitted that the startup does have a strained relationship with the hotel industry’s workforce, and specifically the unions. “I would say that’s a less than healthy relationship.”



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