Who’s in charge?

By Malcolm Noden
February 25, 2020

Malcolm Noden (File Photo)

One of the outcomes of the current technological changes in the hospitality industry is the loud public debate over who should regulate the so called, “home vacation” market. At this very moment the Florida State Legislature is considering a new set of regulations under the rubric of what have been dubbed preemption bills in which the state would take over all regulatory control of private homes which are engaged in the vacation rental business.

The debate, which is marked by a fundamental difference of approach and opinion about the subject of state versus local control over regulations in small counties and towns, has become even more divisive as the question of the use of private homes as public accommodations, has surfaced in every part of the supply chain in the tourism business.

On the one hand we have those individuals and organizations who strongly believe in the ancient adage that, “A man’s home is his castle”, and no one should be able to tell the private homeowner how he uses his home. On the other, we have the regulatory authorities, who are worried about the loss of tax revenues, and the noise and increasing vehicular traffic problems in residential neighborhoods.

Much of the underlying debate is being driven by the dizzying pace of change that has marked the growth of in the business of home accommodations. It is hard to accept that the concept of the Air BNB was a dream in the minds of its developers in 2008. Since that time, some 8 million homeowners around the world have signed up to offer overnight accommodations in their private dwellings, making Air BNB the largest “hotel” chain in the world!

If we add all of this together with the increasing resistance of many in local communities who express their concern for their local natural environment, and are opposed to more new development in their chosen town or village, and want to slow or stop the pace of virtually all residential or commercial expansion, the stage is set for a “knock down-drag out” fight over the yes or no of more newcomers that will help to “…spoil our lovely little place in the world” The pro development folks have characterized these no growth folks, by using a now familiar slur about environmentalists as being those, “…who have already built their cabin in the woods.” This kind of expression by one group about another will only serve to exacerbate the tone of the debate and make some form of mutually acceptable agreement more difficult, if not impossible to achieve.

What we know is that the increasing demand for the use of private homes for visitor accommodations is causing the demand for the expansion of the supply of these rooms. Thus, if we to find a way to maintain our market share of the incoming tourism market, we must find some way to address the increasing complexity of the associated regulations that serve all segments of our community interests.

“Come let us reason together”

Editor’s Note: Malcolm A. Noden, who is the (Retired) Senior Lecturer in Management, Economics, Marketing and Tourism at the School of Hotel Administration, at Cornell University, is a well-known expert in the applied economics of hospitality and tourism policy, promotion and development.

Noden is the past Chairman of the New York State Tourism Education Task force, an advisory board appointed by former Governor George Pataki of New York. Noden serves on the editorial board of TEOROS International, a theoretical research journal for education in tourism, and was the Cornell University representative to, and a founding member of, the World Tourism Organization, Educational and Training Board.

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Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
3 years ago

Home vacation houses give homeowners much-needed income while driving up housing and rental costs; increasing noise, traffic,and trash in neighborhoods; and causing increased demands on public services without the increased resources to give them. The U.S. economic system is designed to keep the majority of people as poor as possible (and it works that way), so one can hardly blame the homeowners for trying to get some extra income. Still, it is a local issue, and preemptive bills will only favor the big spenders (corporations and wealthy donors).