NH Hotels CEO Federico Gonzales has called for “fairness” in the hospitality industry over regulations with the rise of ‘sharing economy’ companies such as Airbnb.

Speaking today at the GBTA conference in Berlin, Gonzales said Airbnb has a business advantage because their hosts don’t have to comply with safety regulations that traditional hotels do.

“At my properties I don’t have the choice to offer a cheaper room if the traveller decides they don’t want a fire alarm or to open a hotel without fire exits.

“I’m happy with all competitors but competition must be fair, I’m not blaming Airbnb it’s not their fault but the industry’s and all we ask for is fairness.”

Gonzales added: “I think around Airbnb and the sharing economy there is a semantic wobbliness… I think I’m part of the sharing economy because I’m selling a room.

“This phrase ‘sharing economy’ gives it a generous glamour but it’s still a business cost… we must help the traveller understand what they are getting.”

Gonzales was joined on stage, for the last session of the three-day event, by HRS CEO Tobias Ragge and Airbnb regional manager for Germany and central and south eastern Europe, Christopher Cederskog.

Ragge dismissed Airbnb as a major player in managed travel and said the concept will struggle to make it in business travel.

“It’s important to have level playing field for everybody especially over safety regulations,” said Ragge. “I would not consider using it as I want the services that a hotel offers such as free wifi.

“I don’t see Airbnb or similar companies making a major breakthrough in managed travel.”

Cederskog responded by stating that 10 per cent of its bookings are now business travel related which he said is strong growth for a new concept in a young business.

“We are now available in 190 countries and have over 800,000 properties and our focus on business travel is a relatively new venture. We know a lot of blue-chip companies that are now using Airbnb for business travel,” he said.

“Home sharing as a concept has been around for years, so we are not disruptive in that aspect but disruptive in offering something that hasn’t been around in the hospitality space.

“We are working with city regulators and we are looking for a better way to regulate this industry.”

He admitted the company did need to talk about fire regulations and it’s looking to supply these to the people who open up their homes.

“What we need to make sure is to distinguish the private citizen who wants to open their room for 1 night a year rather than a bed and breakfast or hotel that is opening up rooms 365 days a year.”

Responding to Ragge’s comments Cederskog said: “Our biggest threat is trying to match the authentic and unique things that we offer in the leisure space that we can’t currently offer in the demanding business travel environment, such as late-check in and we must be transparent in that.”

Airbnb was named in BBT’s 2014 Hotlist.

Click here to read a round-up of the three-day conference and Michael O’Leary’s thoughts on primary airports.

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