NEW YORK – Did Airbnb come up during the hotel industry’s important investment conference organized by New York University? Of course it did! The industry’s leaders respect it on one hand, but on the other, question its fairness. Here’s my roundup of the most interesting quotes I heard CEOs and other top-level brand execs tell attendees Monday and Tuesday:


Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, W, Aloft)

“To ignore (Airbnb) would be very, very shortsighted,” said Simon Turner (photo above), president of Starwood’s global development. “But I also don’t think it’s the death knell of the hotel industry.”

IHG (Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, EVEN, InterContinental)

“The sharing economy world is here is here to stay,” said IHG CEO Richard Solomons. “My position is that what we get is a level playing field. So if that means they’re not treated the same way (as the hotel industry), that concerns me.”

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The hotel industry is highly regulated, Solomons told the audience. Hotels pay bed taxes and sales taxes, they must meet construction quality as well as safety regulations in case of fire.

“Ultimately, we’ll see how it goes. It’s a very tiny piece of the business today, but it’s going to grow,” he said.


IHG (Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, EVEN, InterContinental)

Hotel companies clear must monitor Airbnb today, said Kirk Kinsell (photo above), president of the Americas for IHG.

“I don’t look at the glass half full half empty,” Kinsell said. “I look at who took the other half.”

Marriott International (Marriott, Courtyard, Ritz-Carlton, SpringHill Suites)

Airbnb is “a new take on an old business,” said Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson.

“Renting a vacation home is something people have been doing for a long time. To do it on a tech platform makes sense. They’re reinventing it.

“But when you see five, 10, 20 apartments in a residential apartment building have their business be simply renting out apartments on Airbnb or one of their competitors, then you start to get into a space that is different. It raises all sorts of questions: life safety, disabled rooms, question around housing policy too. Think about the cost of residential housing in New York. In society, do we want a bunch of apartments pulled off the market to run an unrelated hotel-like space? It looks different. It feels different.”

Loews Hotels (Loews Hotels)

“It is doing nothing to create jobs in the lodging industry,” said Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels who has been chairing NYU’s hotel investment conference for 20 years. “We all work hard, pay taxes and have men and women who work diligently for us. They pay taxes, and we pay taxes for them.”