Airbnb faces tough audience at PATA summit

CEBU, 29 March 2019: When he addresses PATA members this May, the founder and chief strategy officer of Airbnb, Nathan Blecharczyk, will give his side of the story on the rise of home sharing to a travel industry audience that is more comfortable with the traditional hotel model.

You could say Nathan will enter the lion’s den when he addresses the Pacific Asia Travel Association Annual Summit in Cebu 9 to 12 May. It’s an address that if he lives up to his reputation will pull no punches.

Many of PATA’s powerful members are the stalwarts of traditional hotel chains and they view Airbnb as an upstart that has turned into a formidable adversary.

The Philippines’ Department of Tourism, is hosting the 9-12 May PATA annual summit the Radisson Blu Cebu in Cebu, Philippines.

Clearly a top billing for the summit, PATA CEO Mario Hardy, says it is “nearly impossible to talk about the travel and tourism industry without mentioning Airbnb and its impact on the sector.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our members and delegates to hear from a true innovator and gain deeper insights into how global travel is changing.”

Of course, we are expecting Blecharczyk to live up the advance publicity. Hopefully he will not be wriggling his way into membership and a chair on the association’s board, although the thought might have crossed the minds of PATA leaders as they look for a big catch to accelerate a membership drive.

PAS 2019 is a four-day event hosted this year in a fascinating city that has seen more than its fair share of disasters and setbacks. Cebu named the country’s oldest city is famed for its beaches, religious culture and a colonial heritage reflected in its distinctive architecture.

But like so many countries in the region, the Philippines grapples with the conundrum of finding a legal framework for home sharing. Hotel groups insist Airbnb should be governed by the same legislation and tax systems, a view that the home-sharing giant resists.

Just how’s does Airbnb fit into the mix of traditional hotel keeping and as governments tighten controls on the reporting of guests and tax collection which side of the law do Airbnb content providers find themselves?

Over the four days the annual PATA Summit adopts the somewhat bland theme ‘Progress with a Purpose’, although the conference blurb says delegates will “look at the fundamental challenges, issues and opportunities of the travel and tourism industry and how together we can bring about actionable change for the better.”

Following a one-day opening conference, PATA will again partner with the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to organise a half-day UNWTO/PATA Leaders Debate. Airbnb will be the official debate topic partner for that event.

In the meantime, delegates will be booking their stays at traditional hotel chains. 

Yesterday the Dusit Group, headquartered in Bangkok announced it would open its newest property in Cebu  this weekend.

The five-star Dusit Thani Mactan Cebu located on the Punta Engano peninsula of Mactan island, approximately 10 km  from Cebu City, has 272 rooms. It opens with a promotional rate of PHP7,888 net (USD150) valid through to 31 May.

Cebu is attracting more hotel groups based in Asia following the recent opening of Mactan International Airport.

Taiwan’s Grand Pillar International Development Inc was quoted by local newspapers in Cebu saying it was keen to open hotels in the Philippines including a property in Cebu under its Le Charmè Suites brand.

Ascott, a subsidiary of Singapore-based real estate giant CapitaLand, will open Citadines Cebu City an “apart hotel” later this year with 180 keys with a mix of one and two bedroom units according to the Manila Times.

The group intends to open seven new apartment hotels in the Philippines over the next six years.

Renewed interest in developing hotels is driven mainly by airline services and Cebu Pacific, celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year, is one of the key players.

The role of airlines in the revival of Cebu’s tourism fortunes was illustrated earlier in March when RoutesAsia hosted its annual conference in Cebu with more than 800 delegates. During that event, Routes executives identified the opening of the new airport and the boost in new hotel offerings as the two vital components that swung the decision to host the event in Cebu.

(Source; PATA, Manila Times)