War of Words Heats up as Airbnb Sends Scathing Letter to Marriott CEO

Nov 22, 2017

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Airbnb, the disruptor-in-chief of travel accommodations, wrote a strongly-worded letter to Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson accusing the hotel industry of taking taxpayer subsidies to fund the construction of properties around the United States.

The letter comes after the Marriott CEO said that he doesn’t think Airbnb is willing to concede to government regulations, and commenting that the homeshare startup is spending “a lot” of money on government affairs.

In response, Airbnb’s head of public policy Josh Meltzer sent a letter, obtained by CNBC, to Sorenson on Monday saying:

I was not surprised that you are unwilling and unable to defend your industry’s longstanding commitment to price gouging consumers, depressing wages and replacing workers with robots.

This letter continues the ongoing battle between Airbnb and the hotel industry — both sides have lobbied the federal government intensely, and there were even eyebrow-raising TV ads accusing Airbnb of amplifying the threat of terrorism. In April 2017 the New York Times reported that the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) which includes Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton, was planning on thwarting Airbnb’s growth.

Airbnb Letter by CNBC.com on Scribd

Meltzer highlights a report from Airbnb which claims that Marriott received $1.73 billion in taxpayer subsidies between 2008 and 2017 to fund construction of its hotels. Though Meltzer didn’t stop there — he asked Sorenson to explain to taxpayers the “subsidized” $12.3 million salary he received in 2016.

The hotel industry has accused Airbnb of avoiding regulations, causing a spike in rents and not playing by the same rules of traditional lodging providers. The San Francisco tech startup, meanwhile, has charged hotel chains with fighting Airbnb at every step at the expense of consumers.

Meltzer challenged Sorenson to address the AHLA’s “misleading ads” regarding the safety of Airbnbs and defended the company’s background check system.

A report from Morgan Stanley released last week said that Airbnb’s adoption rate is slowing, and suggested that privacy and safety issues are barriers to further growth for the homeshare company.

Featured Image by Carl Court/Getty Images.

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