Last year, Airbnb underwent a rough regulatory patch.
The short-term rental company became a Federal Trade Commission target last summer after three senators asked for an investigation into how companies like Airbnb affect soaring housing costs. In October, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York signed a bill imposing steep fines on Airbnb hosts who break local housing rules.
The two actions appeared unrelated. But one group quietly took credit for both: the hotel industry.
In a presentation in November, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, a trade group that counts Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Hyatt Hotels as members, said the federal investigation and the New York bill were “notable accomplishments.”
Both were partly the result of a previously unreported plan that the hotel association started in early 2016 to thwart Airbnb. The plan was laid out in two separate documents that the organization presented to its board in November and January. In the documents, which The New York Times obtained, the group sketched out the progress it had already made against Airbnb, and described how it planned to rein in the start-up in the future.
The plan was a “multipronged, national campaign approach at the local, state and federal level,” according to the minutes of the association’s November board meeting.
The documents provide an inside look at how seriously the American hotel industry is taking Airbnb as a threat — and the extent to which it is prepared to take action against it.
In the past, hotel executives typically played down the privately held company’s impact on the $1.1 trillion American hotel industry. As recently as December, a Marriott executive dismissed Airbnb as not “really making headway in the corporate environment, which is really our bread-and-butter business.”
Yet there is now little mistaking that Airbnb is encroaching on the traditional hotel business. The company, which is based in San Francisco, was founded in 2008 as a way for people to easily list and rent out their spare rooms or their homes online. Since then, about 150 million travelers have stayed in three million Airbnb listings in more than 191 countries, according to the company.
Airbnb has raised more than $3 billion and secured a $1 billion line of credit, according to the research firm CB Insights. Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, has said the company could be ready to go public in a year. Investors have pegged Airbnb’s value at around $30 billion; in contrast, Hilton’s market capitalization is $19 billion and Marriott’s $35 billion.