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The battle between hotels and Airbnb continues to heat up

The battle between hotels and Airbnb continues to heat up
The Airbnb app is shown on an iPad. The American Hotel and Lodging Assn. broke fundraising and spending records during the 2016 election cycle to support candidates who want Airbnb to “play by the same rules,” documents say. (John MacDougall / AFP/Getty Images)

The nation's hotel industry has for years shrugged off competition from short-term rentals, booked through sites like Airbnb and VBRO, saying they pose no major threat.

That is no longer the case.

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The American Hotel and Lodging Assn., the trade group for the nation's hotels, broke fundraising and spending records during the 2016 election cycle to support candidates who want Airbnb to "play by the same rules," according to documents obtained by the Hill and the New York Times. The AHLA raised $1.5 million and donated $1.3 million.

"Disbursements have been made in a strategic, bi-partisan, bi-cameral fashion to support members of Congress and candidates who are pro-lodging and pro-employer," according to minutes for a January board meeting obtained by the news organizations.

The AHLA board said in its minutes that the goal for 2017 was to "advance federal legislation efforts to level the playing field in specific areas and push back on Airbnb's offensive within the Beltway," referring to Washington, D.C.

The trade group continued its attack of Airbnb, issuing a statement this week saying AHLA's goal is to "protect communities and travelers from the commercial operators who use websites like Airbnb to run illegal hotels in residential properties, ignoring common sense zoning and safety regulations and civil rights laws that all lodging businesses must follow."

Airbnb fired back with a letter this week to AHLA President Katherine Lugar, accusing the group of declaring war on middle-class families.

"We ought to be able to agree that the middle-class family that shares their home while traveling is not a commercial operation running a business," Christopher Lehane, Airbnb's head of policy and communications, said in the letter.

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.

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