In just a few years, vacation-rental websites have become a bona fide threat to the traditional hotel and resort business model. And while much has been written about the hotel customers and revenue being lured away by upstarts like Airbnb and VRBO, less attention has been paid to another equally serious threat: the threat to hotel and resort brands.
In addition to homes and apartments, vacation-rental sites often feature residential units within hotels or resorts. The listings for those units often make liberal use of hotel or resort brands, naming them in titles, for instance, and contain descriptions and photos of the properties and their amenities. Some listings even use the hotels’ logos.
This has the obvious potential to sow confusion among consumers, who could be easily misled into thinking the hotels or resorts themselves had posted the listings, or at least authorized them.
The use of hotel brands also threatens to damage hotels’ reputation and goodwill, for several reasons. Besides diverting sales that may otherwise go to the hotel, association with any given vacation-rental website may not be desirable, particularly if that website has a less-than-stellar reputation or if the hotel brand is up-market. Finally, these listings frequently include inaccurate information about the rental unit, renters’ access to hotel facilities and amenities, resort fees, and other critical information.