With a new agreement with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) this month, Airbnb has opened up a new front in its campaign targeting travelers who would otherwise opt for a traditional hotel or resort.

The Airbnb CTO marketing initiative will promote 18 Caribbean countries, with online profiles of each country, including recent travel reports. Airbnb customers also receive email newsletters highlighting traveler activities in each country.

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The information will also be published in Airbnb’s Discover the Caribbean online section, with links to each country’s travel site.

As the Caribbean continues to rediscover itself, we are helping to ensure that travelers can safely return to this beautiful region, said Carlos Muñoz, Airbnb’s policy manager for Central America and the Caribbean. We are also pleased to announce the significant economic impact of renting on Airbnb.

This partnership will help the [CTO] promote the region responsibly by giving our members a platform to present their destinations while highlighting the health safety measures each has in place, said Neil Walters, acting secretary general of the group.

But while Airbnb offers Caribbean travelers extensive options, the Airbnb-CTO pact, like most of the housing giant’s projects, mostly leaves travel advisors cold, as Airbnb does not offer referral fees.

Antigua and Barbuda is one of 18 Caribbean countries featured online in the Airbnb CTO partnership. (Photo: Brian Major)

The CTO is trying to boost tourism, but at the same time is slapping travel agents in the face because Airbnb is not agent-friendly, according to Jennifer Donszecz, president of VIP Vacations. Travel agents have sold a lot to the Caribbean during this crisis, and you would think the CTO would recommend travel agents before engaging with Airbnb.

Competition in the Caribbean

In addition, many advisors see the company’s business model as a long-term threat, as it competes directly with consumer and destination booking advisors.

Although the CTO has no formal relationship with the consultants, the agents book a significant portion of the trips in the Caribbean. For this reason, the CTO has tried to attract consultants through various actions in recent years. However, this prevented many councillors from appreciating the new partnership.

Of course, consultants are losing [clients to Airbnb], and that number will increase, said Richard Turen, managing director and owner of luxury travel agency Churchill and Turen, Ltd.

Mr. Turen addressed an issue often raised by council members who are… : Airbnb’s quality control standards are often inconsistent.

They don’t do quality control in their facilities, says Edward Jean, owner of New York-based Massive Travel. I hear so many stories of people who have visited a property and it didn’t match what was shown online.

A recent study found, Touraine said, that the back seats of Uber vehicles contain far more bacteria than an average public restroom. I wonder what the result would have been if a similar survey included unregistered, unregulated private homes and homes rented to people willing to pay?

Also, they don’t work with travel agents and I don’t know if I would work with them because they don’t check their properties. You want your customers to have a good experience. You don’t want that kind of trouble.

In addition to the CTO, Airbnb has partnered with travel organizations including destination marketing organization Brand USA and VISITFLORIDA, a statewide marketing group. Some consultants say the competition is not about the travelers, but about the bookings.

According to Claire Schroeder, an independent contractor with Elevations Travel in Atlanta. Hotels and resorts have the best protocols in place to maintain the standards of cleanliness required today.

But I have lost business to Airbnb in the past, Schroeder said, especially in expensive cities like New York, London, Rome and Paris. I had clients who had a lot of experience with Airbnb, and then I found myself in a really difficult situation with [Airbnb] with little to no help in resolving the issues that arose.

Effects of COVID-19

Some consultants even say the COVID-19 pandemic could give Airbnb an advantage over traditional hotels and resorts.

I don’t lose customers to Airbnb, but yes, I do lose bookings to them, says Holly Lombardo of Integrated Travel Planning. Especially in light of COVID-19, where travelers love to gather at home with friends and family.

Like other council members, Lombardo pointed to the lack of quality control of Airbnb spaces. When clients ask me if I work with companies like Airbnb, I politely explain that I don’t, she says.

Aside from the fact that there is no fee, I can’t qualify these landlords in terms of quality and service if something is wrong, Lombardo said. I cannot put myself in a position where I cannot fully support the people I ask to help my valued clients.

Lombardo also noted that problems with changes and cancellations, so prominent during the time of pandemic closures, are another potential concern for travelers booking accommodations on Airbnb.

A personal friend of mine booked a $7,000 [Airbnb] rental property in Florida last April, Lombardo said. Because of COVID, they could not legally travel to Florida, and the owner refused to return the $7,000. They had exhausted all possibilities, and the owner had granted them a future stay in six months, she said. You’ve lost everything.

We need to find a way to do the same thing together. said Stephen Scott, Travel Hub 365. (Lovely Traffic Center 365)

Some travel consultants say the solution is to level the playing field with Airbnb. We need to find a way to do the same thing together, said Stephen Scott, founder and CEO of Travel Hub 365. Our agency is currently developing its own travel app and direct-to-consumer website called the Odyssey Travel App.

Scott said: We understand that travelers sometimes book online and sometimes with a consultant. The messages must come from all sectors and we must promote them through all booking channels.

In fact, some council members see no reason for concern. I think it will have a limited appeal, so I’m not worried about that at all, said Cal Chensey of Bucket List Travel and Tours. I think most guests still want the resort experience with restaurants and activities, he said.

It may be attractive to people in the coming months, but once everyone has vaccines, this niche market will no longer affect our business.

Claudette Covey contributed to this report.

frequently asked questions

Who are Airbnb’s competitors?

Industry ‘ Rental companies

Is Airbnb a Travel Agency?

Share all exchange options: Airbnb is evolving from a rental company to a travel agency. Airbnb is evolving from a short-term rental company to a full-fledged travel agency. The San Francisco-based company has expanded its hospitality business to include room and apartment rentals for homeowners and renters.

Does Expedia belong to Airbnb?

Box CEO Aaron Levy called the IPO an ideal market hedge given the global pandemic situation. Airbnb’s IPO is the perfect market coverage. … Airbnb has added Expedia as a competitor in its IPO bid. Expedia owns vrbo, a short-term rental platform that competes directly with Airbnb.

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