The Real Deal Miami

Hotels want level playing field with Airbnb: CRE panel

Panelists also discussed the negative effects of Zika on hotel bookings
By Francisco Alvarado | March 14, 2017 05:15PM

Chris Lee, Avra Jain, Diego Lowenstein, Steve Patterson and Ernesto Cambo

A panel of commercial real estate developers on Tuesday touched on Airbnb, Zika virus hysteria and financing challenges builders in the commercial sector are currently facing.

Diego Lowenstein, CEO of Lionstone Development, addressed the escalating conflict Airbnb is facing in Miami-Dade County. “We want a level playing field,” Lowenstein said. “They should be under the same guidelines we are supposed to work under from a code enforcement and taxing standpoint.”

The Internet-based short-term rental service is currently fighting Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who is pushing a measure that would crack down on property owners who rent out properties using Airbnb. In Miami Beach, property owners who are caught renting through Airbnb are fined $20,000.

Still, Lowenstein, whose company owns Ritz-Carlton branded hotels in Bal Harbour and South Beach, said Airbnb provides a valuable service. “There is a valid reason Airbnb exists,” he said. “It is a sound product. I have used it. The hospitality sector just wants fair rules of engagement.”

Left to right: Christian Lee, Diego Lowenstein, Ernesto Cambo, Steve Patterson and Avra Jain

Lowenstein joined CBRE Vice Chairman Christian R. Lee, CPF Investment Group founder and principal Ernesto Cambo, Related Development President and CEO Steve Patterson and the Vagabond Group founder Avra Jain on the panel during the annual CEO Power Breakfast on South Florida Commercial Real Estate. Held at the Conrad Hotel in Brickell, the event was presented by the Miami Finance Forum and The Real Deal was a media sponsor.

Lowenstein also talked about the negative impact on hotel bookings as a result of last year’s Zika virus outbreak and the resulting media coverage. “It affected our group business in a very dramatic way,” he said. “Even business that was booked into 2017 took a significant hit. That affects every single hotel in this market.”

The panel also talked about the type of commercial properties investors and lenders are bullish about. “There is a lot of institutional investment in co-working facilities,” Lee said. “Co-working spaces and technology are really changing the [office market].”