Airbnb, VRBO offer parallels to online music

Friday, January 2, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 1
By Hollie Deese


Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp., understands short-term rental sites like HomeAway, VRBO and Airbnb aren’t going away and are beneficial for visitors and neighborhoods.

To him, fighting them would be like trying to fight downloads to preserve the music industry.

“I think it is an ingenious concept, and obviously it has caught on,” he says. “I am a believer in you follow the trends, take advantage and figure out how to participate with it.

“As you watch that generation in particular that really uses it, it is smart. And if you want to capture them, get on the bandwagon.”

But, he is interested in seeing some regulations for safety and is all for collecting taxes from participating homeowners who are able to rent out so frequently due, in part, to Nashville’s marketing efforts.

Airbnb or not, it’s pretty hard to imagine someone from out of state – or across the river - wanting to rent a room in East Nashville for the immersion experience 10 years ago.

“If local homeowners are going to benefit from the hospitality industry and the demand that our industry has created for this city, then a level playing field on the taxing side I think is important,” Spyridon adds.

“It doesn’t hurt the homeowner to put city or state taxes on, but it does make it an equitable playing field. And the city is losing a lot of revenue right now, so all that does is help the city.”

Spyridon says the taxes help pay for necessary city services like police and fire.

“People participating aren’t marketing themselves; they are listed on a website,” he says. “We are creating the demand to come and visit Nashville. So help support the effort to keep that going.”

Spyridon says the city’s hotels are running at over 70 percent occupancy. Smith Travel Research evaluates the top 25 markets every month, and Nashville has been in the top five cities in almost every performance category, every month, for the past four years.

But there are just some times in the year it is just too hard to find a room, like during summer’s CMA Festival, and the rental properties have acted as necessary backup.

And while there are currently few desirable hotels in neighborhoods like Germantown and East Nashville, where Airbnb thrives, Spyridon says that could change.

“There aren’t any specific plans right now, but I fully expect that to be the next frontier,” he says. “Someone is going to build over there. You have already seen the renovation of a couple over by the stadium, so that is kind of the first step.

“I think that is coming – small, boutique. People have looked in Hillsboro Village, but I know the Hillsboro neighborhood doesn’t really like it.

“I will be the first to say that I expect it to happen, but I also hope they will do it in keeping in character with the neighborhoods. It doesn’t have to be a massive hotel. It can be a cool, boutique, moderately-priced hotel.”