Las Vegas Sun

December 16, 2018

Currently: 43° — Complete forecast

Guest column:

Short-term rentals good for the local economy

Every January, CES — the world’s largest, most influential tech and innovation event — brings more than 180,000 visitors to Las Vegas to experience the latest tech trends firsthand.

But if Las Vegas wants to see events grow, it must continue to broaden its base of available lodging. As the Las Vegas Planning Commission and the City Council propose to restrict or possibly even ban residents from renting out their own properties through short-term rental services, they should consider the bigger picture — the city’s carefully honed reputation for welcoming visitors at a range of prices.

CES is not the only show facing this issue. Other trade shows, as well as sporting events, festivals and conferences, can attract more visitors if attendees have lodging choices at different price points. The city’s expanding reputation as a sports destination, with the addition of T-Mobile Arena, the Raiders stadium and bids for future teams, underscores the need for more lodging options. Not everyone wants the casino or resort experience — some visitors are looking for more budget-friendly options or want to stay in a home. Innovative short-term rental services provide an answer to these visitors, and they have changed the way we travel.

For business travelers visiting for an extended stay around events like CES, short-term rentals often provide a more convenient and comfortable stay by offering amenities such as a kitchen or living room. Plus, these visitors get to see parts of the city they’d never otherwise see and meet people whom they’d never otherwise encounter.

Meanwhile, short-term rental hosts and homeowners can lend their local expertise and make some extra money on the side.

Traditionally the city’s tourism business was confined to the Strip and downtown Las Vegas. Now, visitors who book short-term rentals spread the wealth, including in areas that would otherwise not benefit from that patronage. Airbnb reports that nearly three-quarters of its properties are located beyond standard hotel areas. Airbnb travelers spend twice as much as other visitors, and more than 40 percent of what they spend is in the neighborhoods where they stay. That means local businesses benefit — think coffee shops, restaurants, taxi cabs and nail salons.

The benefits of short-term rentals are far-reaching, making the proposed restriction from the Planning Commission appear a hasty and unnecessary move. Instead, city leaders should work with short-term rental owners, local businesses and platforms to craft rules that work for all stakeholders and address concerns about neighborhood impacts.

Las Vegas is always growing and adapting to give visitors the best experience. In a connected world where many cities vie for hospitality and customer service, Las Vegas stands ahead in its accommodating and innovative openness. Restricting visitor choices on where they stay would only hurt the city and the world’s largest events, such as CES, that need choices for guests — and may even force some of these events to look to other, more welcoming cities in the future.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies.