In just a few years Airbnb, Uber and Lyft have become leading services providers to the meetings industry. As they grow in popularity, meeting organizers must adjust to account for their prevalence and their impact on the usual methods of doing business.
Airbnb and other homestay services are impacting meetings the most. As attendees turn to homestays in greater numbers, groups use fewer rooms and planners face an increasing risk of rooms attrition at their contracted meeting hotels.
To lessen the threat of attrition, the natural reaction is to lower the group’s room block. But while a lower block reduces the risk of attrition, it also reduces the anticipated rooms revenue to the hotels. This effect will likely make the hotel less willing to provide complimentary function space and other concessions often provided to large groups.
There is no legal “right or wrong” to this scenario. As with many aspects of a meeting contract, it’s up to meeting planners to negotiate with hotel partners to secure the costs and concessions they desire. Realistically speaking, however, groups seeking lower room blocks must also consider requesting less complimentary function space. Otherwise they should be prepared to pay for some of their function space needs.
Groups using convention centers may also face additional costs for meeting space if they lower their room blocks. If the homestays do not pay the local lodging tax, guests staying in homes rather than hotel rooms lower the value of the meeting to the government authorities that run CVBs and convention facilities.
That should not be the case in cities where homestay guests pay the same lodging taxes as hotels, however. In those places, since governments are receiving the same tax revenues from homestays as hotels, subsidized meeting facilities in convention centers should continue to be provided in equal quantity.
Homestays bring unique legal challenges in addition to affecting room blocks and concessions. Most attendees booking Airbnb and similar lodgings do so on their own, so it is commonly thought that they bear their own risks if something were to go wrong.
That is sometimes true.
But it is also true that planners and meeting host organizations may still be subject to liability for injuries, losses and other harms suffered by attendees arising from homestays. This is because many attendees expect planners to check everything out and anticipate problems, even if there is no relationship between the meeting group and the homestay. The best policy is for the planner to acknowledge the risks associated with homestays, and take reasonable steps to prevent them.
Planners should consider following these tips if attendees might book homestays:
Final Note: This article is not legal advice. It is a discussion of issues intended to help professional meeting planners and suppliers consider their circumstances and draw their own conclusions. Legal advice can only be rendered after a discussion of your particular fact situation with an attorney competent in meetings law.
Posted by Joshua L. Grimes, Esq.
Grimes Law Offices, LLC
123 South Broad St., 28th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19109
Josh is a Philadelphia-based managing attorney of Grimes Law Offices, LLC. He provides legal aid for associations and meeting professionals, and also works as a speaker and corporate trainer.