Florida International University Pulls the Plug on Controversial Airbnb Study that was to be Funded by AH&LA
Chabeli Herrera | The Miami Herald | August 11, 2017 2:19pm
Aug. 10--Florida International University has put the brakes on a proposed study of Airbnb-like accommodations that its funder, the national hotel association, hoped would shed light on what it believes is a lack of safety at short-term rentals.
The university said the American Hotel & Lodging Association will no longer cut a check for $68,209.50 to FIU for research on safety and security at short-term rental properties in several major cities, including Miami.
The reason? FIU and the hotel association could not agree on who should own the copyright for the research -- and control of the information.
"That really became the sticking point," said Mike Hampton, dean of FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. "It's important that we maintain the copyright for any material that we do so we can determine how that material will be used. We don't do work for other people to just produce an outcome. We want to make sure the integrity of the data is always maintained."
The hotel association's intentions in funding the FIU study were revealed in April, when leaked documents detailed the association's plans to combat Airbnb, partly through commissioned reports that showed short-term rentals were harmful. The FIU study was listed in that document.
Meanwhile, Airbnb was funding a watchdog blog, the Checks and Balances Project, to research the hotel industry's lobbying tactics against the home-sharing industry. The blog requested documents on FIU's proposed study and shared them with media outlets, calling on FIU to clarify its relationship with the hotel lobby in late July.
FIU associate professor Eric Beckman, who was set to conduct the research, said last month that the university was committed to "be unbiased and we look through the lens of how can we help consumers."
Hampton echoed those thoughts, saying the hotel association did not inform the school of its expectations from the study and that FIU approached AHLA for funding. The school will seek other funders for its study, he said.
For its part, the hotel association said in a statement that a study on the safety of short-term rentals is "important research" and that the association will be seeking "alternate research partners" for the project.
The back-and-forth is the latest illustration of the tension between the hotel industry and the growing short-term rental business, which has played out with particular fanfare in Miami-Dade County. In March 2016, Miami Beach imposed $20,000 fines on illegal short-term rental hosts -- the highest in the nation, and the city of Miami then banned renting on platforms like Airbnb in suburban areas.
Chabeli Herrera: 305-376-3730, @ChabeliH