March 14, 2016
NEW YORK– Share Better, a hotel industry-backed group, is doubling what it will spend to go after San Francisco startup Airbnb this year — suggesting the already bitter battle will get more heated in the coming months.
Share Better, which is backed by hotel workers unions, housing advocates and other groups, plans to spend approximately $1 million over the next six months, starting with its first national television ad to air Tuesday, Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Share Better told USA TODAY.
The new budget is higher than what the group spent campaigning against Airbnb in all of 2015, Shafran said.
The push comes as Airbnb, which pairs travelers with rooms or homes to rent, continues to battle questions about the legality and economic impact of some short-term rentals.
Opponents have argued that Airbnb contributes to rising housing costs by providing an incentive for landlords to forgo long-term leases in lieu of short-term rentals. The startup has also been criticized over the safety of some of its rentals, as well as taxes paid by renters.
Airbnb, which boasts 2 million listings around the world, has argued that it provides a tool for homeowners to make an extra buck. The startup, valued at $25.5 billion, has also pressed lawmakers to change laws to let it operate with greater ease, including laws that would let it collect taxes from renters.
One of its biggest local battles played out in San Francisco in November with a win for Airbnb, which spent $8 million to defeat a proposition that would have limited short-term rental sites from renting out spaces for more than 75 days a year, down from the current 90 allowed, if the homeowner is not also present.
Share Better’s new television ad — to air on cable networks like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News during prime time Tuesday — highlights recent criticisms of Airbnb using newspaper clippings in Chicago, New York and other cities. The ad is scheduled to air on major political news channels as the Florida primary results for the presidential election come out on Tuesday.
Share Better’s budget will also be spent on activities like neighborhood canvassing and reports studying the impact of Airbnb on the housing market and local economies, Shafran said.
“Instead of attacking middleclass families who are trying to make ends meet, Share Better should tell everyone just how much money they’re taking from the big hotels,” Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas said of the campaign. “While multinational hotel chains send most of the money they earn out of the community, Airbnb hosts keep 97% of the price they charge for their listing,” he said.