Hotel groups taking the low road in the anti-Airbnb fight

by Phil Ammann

Florida has been on the frontlines in the war between vacation rental platforms and traditional hotels.  So far, major vacation rental platforms have scored most of the wins while hotel chains have seen their grip erode.

Airbnb’s agreements with Florida counties alone netted the state $89.5 million in tax remissions to local governments.  Still, the attacks continue.  Anti-vacation rental groups such as American Hotel & Lodging Association have been boosting the nebulous claims of the nonprofit “Stop Child Predators” and it’s Florida-focused offshoot “Our Neighborhoods”.

In a recent article that appeared in Florida Politics, both groups are headed up by Stacie Rumenap, who has spent the last year writing op-eds in Florida newspapers that attempt to pin child sexual abuse on vacation rental companies.

One might assume Stop Child Predators (and it’s Florida-focused offshoot Our Neighborhoods) are being earnest in making those claims. One would be wrong, according to Florida Politics writer, Phil Ammann.

One Rumenap piece, published in the Pensacola News Journal last year, said a statewide regulatory framework on vacation rentals “would endanger tens of thousands of children across the great state of Florida and in your district.”

“There is no safeguard in place to stop a child predator from renting an Airbnb property next door,” she said.  Similar op-eds have sprung up in the News-PressFlorida Times-Union and the Miami Herald. Stop Child Predators has gone so far as to issue grades to lawmakers for their votes on vacation rental bills.

In any event, It wouldn’t be the first time the American Hotel & Lodging Association exploited the suffering of children to boost its own bottom line — the trade association admitted in an internal document that it had propped up another group, AirbnbWATCH, Historic City News learned.

The fact is, it’s no more common for a predator to use a vacation rental as a home base for child abuse than it is for them to use a hotel or even their own homes.  AHLA and its patsy organizations have only managed to prove one point: if your argument can’t win on its own merits and you lack shame, then it’s time to play dirty.

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