Brent Thomas, Airbnb

Airbnb is doing a Donald Trump Down Under – insulting, alienating and potentially making enemies of the people it should be working closely with simply because it can’t get what it wants.

The highlight so far has been the attack on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian by Brent Thomas, the Head of Public Policy at Airbnb in Australia, who should be smoothing the way in the halls of power.

Instead Thomas, angered by the lack of progress in getting long-standing letting laws changed in favour of  Airbnb, opted to insult Berejiklian, saying she has no idea about innovation and that her predecessor, Mike Baird, would be doing a much better job in an interview with  The Australian Newspaper.

“This is the sort of bold fair and progressive reform that Mike Baird would have embraced. But unfortunately, it seems like that’s not happening.”

Thomas is particularly angry at an options paper under consideration by the government, which continues to delay its final decision on what to do with short-term letting laws in Australia’s largest state.

“There are some really draconian options. We could we see a situation where NSW takes out the prize for being least innovative state in the country.

“The options paper mentioned the word innovation once and it’s in the Minister for Innovation’s title.”

In other words, if you don’t support Airbnb you are against innovation. As if Airbnb is a social cause and not a multi-billion dollar business.

Clearly Thomas has given up and thinks Airbnb has nothing to lose because they (he?) have such a poor relationship with NSW Government in the first place.

But it’s still hard to see any upside for Airbnb with this abrasive approach,  which is apparently going to be amplified through a new advertising campaign.

The Daily Telegraph reported this week that Airbnb has declared war on “nanny state regulations” and is launching an ad campaign targeting key Liberal seats, including Berejiklian’s.

This is funny because by definition these electorates are full of older conservative people who are likely against Airbnb in the first place.

Also, there’s no election so what’s the point? Likely, a warning that there’s more of this coming. However, does anyone except those making money from the platform really care?

Bizarrely, Thomas, a former Labour Party staffer,  was also angry Airbnb had been denied membership of hotel lobby lobby groups.

“We’ve applied to join Tourism Accommodation Australia and the Accommodation Association of Australia, and they’ve said no.

“These bodies purport to represent Australia’s tourism sector. But actually they’re a backward-looking pocket watch brigade that are just protecting the old world big players.”

But he’s got it wrong, though it does make good copy.

Both TAA and the AAA represent hoteliers who are in direct competition with Airbnb, a distribution platform for people to rent their homes, apartments, rooms, treehouses, igloos etc. There is absolutely no reason for them to admit Airbnb as a member.

If the laws do eventually get changed in NSW it will be despite, not because of, the attacks from Airbnb, which like Uber regards itself as above the law and due process.

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