Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Three Asheville hoteliers on Wednesday pushed for quick action to respond to the growing impact of Airbnb rentals on their industry and the local community.

The three hoteliers, all former chairman of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, made their comments during Wednesday’s monthly TDA meeting. They made their comments after hearing a report presented by members of the TDA’s advertising agency that showed soaring demand for Airbnb rentals is starting to erode demand for hotel room rentals.

John Winkenwerder, co-owner and managing partner of South Asheville Hotel Associates, a company that owns four Buncombe County hotels, led off the comments near the end of the meeting.

“Right now, it’s out of control and it’s going to get worse and it’s going to hurt everybody,” Winkenwerder said of the impacts of Airbnb. Those impacts include less availability of affordable housing and an erosion of the hotel industry, he said.

“If you get behind on this and let this keep rolling the way it’s rolling, we’re not going to have anywhere a person can afford to buy a house. It creates multiple problems,” he told the board.

Winkenwerder, a third-generation Winkenwerder to make his living in the Asheville hospitality industry, said the solution was increased regulation, such as zoning to limit rentals and rules regarding safety requirements.

Bob Patel, the owner of four hotels in Asheville who moved to town in the 1980s, agreed with Winkenwerder that the “same type of rules and regulations that are being imposed on hotels” should be required of Airbnb rentals. He added that anyone that owns a home just to rent it should be taxed differently than people who own and live in their homes.

Herman Turk, vice president of Windsor Management, where he oversees the Renaissance Hotel in Asheville and nine other hotel properties, urged the TDA to develop a “strategy to compete against the whole Airbnb phenomenon.”

“We’re on a collision course with the economy,” said Turk, another long-time Asheville hotel operator. “We’re smart enough to see it coming. We’re smart enough to strategize against it.”

Asheville City Councilwoman Julie Mayfield, an ex-officio member of the tourism board, said she was both “heartened and concerned” that the “sleeping giant” of the hotel industry had awoken to the threat that Airbnb poses.

She said she was happy to continue a discussion about new regulations, and team up with the TDA, noting the actions that City Council has taken over the past couple of years to both crack down on illegal operators of short-term rentals and allow homeowners some leeway in participating in Airbnb. She said she feared that the public perception might be that “the hotel industry is now going after Airbnb.”

Stephanie Brown, the president and CEO of Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau, stressed that the report was for informational purposes only and did not offer a “value judgement” regarding any type of lodging.

“Everybody represented is a tax paying entity,” she said. The goal was to “get the data out there and for this body to move forward.”

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. evie September 4, 2017

    Is Airbnb the problem or all the new hotel rooms which are cutting into hotel profits?

  2. Barry Summers September 4, 2017

    I’m not a fan of the whole airbnb phenom. But as long as the local hotel industry gets a government subsidy in the form of dedicated tax revenue that primarily serves to enhance their bottom line… They should stop lobbying city council to do anything for them. It’s tacky.

  3. Anti Greed September 1, 2017

    Unfortunately the hoteliers have a lot of money to line the pockets of the City of Asheville. So the city will make life very difficult for as long as it can for the Airbnbers. With zoning and more idiotic laws like illegal detached dwellings. I can’t think of anything more un-American than suppressing competition in this country. Times change and revenue models change. It is just as ridiculous as a typewriter company trying to outlaw home computers. The sad part is that the City backs the corporation over the individual. Follow the money.

    1. luther blissett September 1, 2017

      I’m sure you’ll wave the flag and praise your freedom when your next-door neighbor starts slaughtering chickens in his garage.

    2. NFB September 2, 2017

      Airbnb is a corporation, and one worth several billion dollars.

      1. luther blissett September 3, 2017

        AirBnB’s estimated market cap is greater than that of Hilton or Marriott.

  4. Fat and Sassy September 1, 2017

    Seems pretty simple: hotels charge vastly higher rates for an inferior lodging experience. I have no idea why visitors might be flocking to Airbnb rentals! How about the hoteliers assess the value of the product they’re offering??? Consumers are voting with their wallets. Capitalism is such a bitch sometimes! Sounds like a few millionaires are starting to get nervous about the upcoming glut of hotel rooms in our fair city.

    But we all know corporate money carries the day; all you homeowners trying to supplement your WNC-adjusted incomes with Airbnb should expect additional restrictions from the city designed to put you out of business.

  5. Just Sayin' September 1, 2017

    This is certainly a curious parallel to what is going on with Uber/Lyft and the cab companies. Is it just a fad or is it a real change to the way we get around and where we stay? I’m sure everyone has an opinion. As a person who lives here and travels frequently for pleasure, I find that both Airbnb and Uber/Lyft are more economical and/or convenient methods for me to achieve my agenda when traveling. I’m not quite going to say “damn the man” but…I see a storm continuing to brew on all fronts

  6. jan kubiniec September 1, 2017

    o no. Is this a David and Goliath re-enactment …or a humor piece. I hope the residents win just one time.

  7. cheapskate September 1, 2017

    What do these hotel owners want visitors who don’t want to pay $200+ a night to do, stop coming to asheville? offer an affordable solution, or stop hating on your competition. not everyone can afford a hotel

    1. luther blissett September 1, 2017

      In fairness, you can stay on Tunnel Rd or Smokey Park Hwy for around $100 a night, and that’s still within the city limits.

      Conversely, it might be time for the TDC to start lobbying state legislators to change the law that shovels money into their private hoard.

      1. NFB September 2, 2017

        “Conversely, it might be time for the TDC to start lobbying state legislators to change the law that shovels money into their private hoard.”

        Well, that was something John McKibbion promised he would work for in exchange for approval of his renovation of the BB&T into a high price hotel.

        Not that this promise has seen any sign of being fulfilled.


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