by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | September 14, 2016
Ahead of a Pennsylvania House of Representatives' Tourism and Recreational Committee hearing on short-term rentals being held today, the American Hotel & Lodging Industry Association released a report revealing that more than half of Airbnb's Philadelphia revenue comes from commercial operators.
The report, which was commissioned by the AH&LA, was conducted by John O'Neil, professor of hospitality management and director of the Center for Hospitality Real Estate Strategy at Pennsylvania State University. The study is based on Airbnb data from October 2014 to September 2015.

According to O'Neal, who spoke at a media conference this morning, $8 million, or 57 percent of Airbnb's Philadelphia revenue for that period, was generated by properties listed for rent for more than 180 days per year. "These are not people making extra money by sharing their home. These are commercial operators who are not adhering to the safety laws that even the smallest of bed-and-breakfast operators must," said O'Neal. 

Speaking on the call, John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, said his hotel members had generated $400 million in direct hotel-tax revenue for local and state governments, and questioned why Airbnb was not held to the same tax, safety, fire, and security standards and regulations. "There is a clear difference between who are operating in the sporting world of the shared economy, and those commercial landlords who are running unregulated and untaxed illegal lodging businesses," said Longstreet. "They are using the Airbnb platform to dodge regulations that protect the safety and security of consumers, and they are degrading the quality of life for residents."

Longstreet went on to accuse Pennsylvania tax officials of creating a "back-room voluntary tax collection deal" with Airbnb that allowed the company to "decide what taxes to collect and remit. What we need is a legislative solution that includes permits, zoning and other regulations. Airbnb, however, has consistently refused to release data, and when they have, it has proved to be inaccurate."

AH&LA said the report's findings will give lawmakers meeting today the opportunity to learn more about the proliferation of short-term rentals across the state of Pennsylvania, as well as how new legislation could help the growth of these illegal hotels. The full report can be downloaded from the AH&LA website.