Avalara Tax Changes 2024

Lodging tax changes

Avalara Tax Changes 2024

Lodging tax changes

What tax changes will affect lodging and hospitality in 2024?

Situations change. Consumer preferences change. Through it all, people travel if they can, how they can, where they can.

During the height of the pandemic, once travel was permitted, many shirked hotels and flocked to short-term rentals. Travelers shunned cities and visited beaches, islands, mountains — anywhere with elbow room that allowed for escape from the homes where we lived/worked/schooled/recreated. Over 75% of hotel rooms in the U.S. were unoccupied in April 2020, and in August 2020, occupancy rates in urban hotels were down more than half nationally compared to August 2019.

Now the pendulum has swung the other direction. Hotels are filling, especially in cities. Average U.S. hotel occupancy in 2023 is on track to reach 63.8%, close to the pre-pandemic level of 65.9%; and from the beginning of the year through September 5, 2023, hotel occupancy in New York City averaged 87.5% of capacity. On the other hand, strong supply growth could very well depress occupancy rates for short-term rentals in 2023 and 2024.

Business travel is contributing to the rise in hotel occupancy rates. According to the State of Travel 2023 report by Skift Research, 56% of business travelers surveyed in March 2023 had traveled more in the past six months than before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, while only 21% had traveled less. Yet business travel isn’t likely to return to 2019 levels until late 2024 or early 2025.

Flexible/hybrid working situations are allowing people to travel more and stay longer, leading to an increase in bleisure (a blend of business and travel): Global spending by bleisure travelers is expected to more than double by 2027 ($360 billion) as compared to 2021 ($150 billion). Skift reports that some companies are even changing policies to meet their employees’ bleisure expectations. Per their research: 

  • 46% offer flexible work hours
  • 54% encourage employees to take personal time before or after a business trip
  • 34% reimburse some personal vacation expenses (up from 26% in 2021)

Recognizing this, a growing number of hotels cater to guests’ business needs, offering co-working and meeting spaces, lobby parties, and private dining events. Perhaps as a result of these policies, 30% of the U.S. business travelers surveyed by Skift traveled for an extended time (more than 10 days) away from home.

Yet there’s conflicting data on business travel recovery. Rising inflation is putting a damper on travel spending, according to Skift. Meetings that once (i.e., before the pandemic) seemed like they had to be held in person now seem just fine over Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Given these and other considerations, it may be a while before business travel spending fully rebounds.

Bar chart depicting categories for which spending has or will be cut due to inflation; only 5% of respondents plan to cut travel expenses


And indeed, business travel outlooks are somewhat pessimistic: About 25% of U.S. business travelers surveyed and more than 50% of U.K. business travelers surveyed believe “it is highly unlikely that [business travel] will reach 2019 levels ever again.”

Still, as we noted at the start, the desire to travel runs strong right now.

Though 60% of U.S. consumers surveyed by Skift said inflation would impact the way they intended to travel, they’re still prioritizing travel spending over other discretionary items like alcohol, eating out, and luxury goods. In fact, only 5% of the survey respondents planned to cut travel/transportation expenses in Q1 2023. Moreover, lodging spending increased 43% year over year from February 2022 to February 2023.

Bar chart showing how lodging spend increased 43% year over year from 2022 to 2023

What the numbers tell us about the lodging industry

Graphic showing there are roughly 4,000 locally administered accommodations taxes


Graphic showing who must remit short-term rental taxes to cities: hosts or platforms


Bar chart demonstrating increased travel to urban centers in Q1 2023


Line graph showing global travel in April 2023 surpassed pre-pandemic levels


Graphic depicting high travel prices and fewer U.S. accommodations employees in 2023


Graphic showing an estimated compound annual growth rate of 11.2% from 2023 to 2030 for the global short-term vacation rental market

Hotels are back (oh, yeah)

Skift predicts hotel revenues to be extremely close to pre-pandemic levels in 2023, just 1% below 2019 levels. This is a marked improvement over hotel revenues in 2022, which were 8% lower than in 2019.

But revenues don’t tell the whole story.

Though average daily rates (ADR) and occupancy rates usually recover in pace with each other, their paths are diverging. Revenue per available room (RevPAR) was up 8% from 2019 to 2022 in North America, and ADR was up 14%, yet occupancy was down 5%. The higher daily rates are helping bring hotel revenue nearly back to 2019 levels despite still-depressed occupancy rates.

Fast-forward to September 2023, and U.S. occupancy is showing signs of significant growth. The U.S. hotel industry sold a near-peak number of rooms that month.

Bar chart comparing U.S. weekday occupancy rates in 2022 and 2023


Short-terms rentals are still going strong (mostly)

The hotel sector has historically outperformed short-term rentals (STRs) — pandemic aside — and it’s on top again today with 85% market share. But “short-term rentals are closing the gap with hotels.” STRs nearly doubled their share of the market in just six years, from 8% in 2018 to about 15% in 2023. According to Skift, short-term rentals are now a $67-billion market in the U.S., comprising 18.6% of the overall accommodation sector.

The STR industry actually defied predictions of an “Airbnbust” during the first half of 2023. If strong supply growth leads to a second year of declining occupancy in 2023, rates likely won’t drop as much as once expected. Indeed, occupancy should remain higher than pre-pandemic standards for the foreseeable future. While supply has grown steadily since before the pandemic, AirDNA (via Skift) says talk of “oversupply” seems unwarranted.

Line graph showing projected U.S. short-term rental industry outlook from 2019 to 2024


This isn’t to say there haven’t been bumps in the road. The excess of STR supply has driven down average nightly rates: Though nightly bookings nationwide increased 9% year over year in July 2023, RevPAR dropped 2.3% year over year, to $235.50.

Line graph showing availability of U.S. monthly short-term rentals (actual vs. pre-COVID trend)


Speaking at the Skift Global Forum in September 2023, Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky admitted a lot of Airbnbs are “running at very low occupancy, maybe 20% or 30%.” He noted that charging a little less per night could help increase occupancy.

Fewer bookings at STRs doesn’t necessarily translate to more bookings at hotels, or vice versa. The truth is, hotels and STRs both have a lot to offer. There’s overlap between hotels and Airbnb, observed Chesky, but less than you might think.

That could be changing.

Hotels and STRs are learning from each other

Hotels and STRs generally coexist peacefully and serve different needs, but competition for the same customers could be growing. As a result, hotels and STRs are taking lessons from one another. “Operators in both short-term rentals and hotels are thinking about how to serve the same consumer,” observes Skift.

For instance, short-term rental hosts may stop requiring guests to do chores before they leave, especially if hosts charge a high cleaning fee. And professional property managers are providing round-the-clock services, much like a hotel concierge.

Meanwhile, more hotels are entering the extended stay space. According to Lodging Econometrics, roughly one-third of the construction pipeline for hotels in the U.S., or 30% of planned rooms, are extended-stay projects.

And guess what? Hotels do short-term rentals well.

Hotels are entering the short-term rental space

Skift notes that hotels are increasingly pandering to the “globe-trotting bleisure traveler” and offering short-term rentals. Consumer preferences for STRs even for business trips is leading to “the blending and merging of different players in the accommodation industry” — a “muddled middle,” as it were.

Overall, hotel-managed STRs tend to get higher scores for security, service, ease of resolving problems, and cleanliness than non-hotel-operated STRs. They have an upper hand in the three “C’s” of hospitality: cleaning staff, commercial laundry, and a concierge service.

Bar chart depicting consumer rankings for hotels and short-term rentals


While some hotel-operated short-term rentals are located in or adjacent to the hotel that oversees them, hotels are increasingly moving into stand-alone residential properties.

Hotels are going residential

Some hotel companies are interested in developing more 100% branded residential properties, as they can be more profitable for them than traditional hotels.

“There’s big demand for Marriott stand-alone residences,” according to Dana Jacobsohn, Chief Development Officer of U.S. Luxury Brands and Global Mixed-Use at Marriott International. “They create more loyalty for our hotel brands and we’re making a lot of money with them.” Riyan Itani, Director and Founder of Global Branded Residences, agrees: “My prediction is we will have operators with more stand-alone branded residential than co-located [with a hotel], so they’ll effectively become more residential managers than hotel managers.”

This seems to be particularly true at the luxury level.

Luxury is where it’s at

Hotels with ultra luxury offerings have seen gross operating profit margins more than double recently, from 15% in 2019 to 32% in 2022. No wonder luxury offerings are topping the future pipeline as a percentage of supply: 5.3% of future pipeline under construction in the U.S. is luxury, 4.6% is upscale, 3.7% is upper midscale, 3% is upper upscale, 2.5% is midscale, and only 0.9% is economy.

Stand-alone branded hotel residences — “Think Ritz-Carlton Residences without the actual Ritz-Carlton hotel” — are taking off, “particularly in the luxury space among wealthy international travelers.” The first stand-alone Ritz-Carlton Residences opened in 2009, in response to customer demand. Today, 17% of Marriott’s 128 global branded residential developments are stand-alone.

Marriott has 100 branded residential properties in the pipeline, and 27% are stand-alone. Other hotel brands, including Four Seasons and Hilton, are developing residential programs as well.

As hotels enter the STR space, short-term rental hosts are confronting some of the downsides of outsourcing to a professional property manager.

Unexpected downsides of professionalization

Professional managers seem to make hosts more money. According to Skift, they generated 27% more revenue per available night premium than mom-and-pop peers in 2019, and 34% as of April 2023. So, perhaps it stands to reason that hosts have turned to them in droves. That, and the fact that being on call 24/7 can be a drag.

Large property operators (1,000+ units) grew 27% from April 2022 to April 2023, while their smaller counterparts (1–100 properties) grew only 7%. That may sound good, and maybe it is, but as just about any business that’s grown rapidly can tell you, scaling is hard. Some large property managers now find themselves struggling with back-end operations.

Illustration depicting the range of property management fees varying from 10% to 50% of the rental cost

SOURCE: Lodgify

As Skift observes, “property management is a game played on the ground, and scaling it efficiently and effectively remains hard.” It’s particularly hard to grow a property management company on a national level.

Professional property managers that onboarded hundreds or thousands of properties had to hire a lot of people to take care of those properties. Some have had a hard time keeping up with all that needs to be done, and quality control has suffered. Unhappy STR owners are turning to smaller, local property managers or taking over management themselves.

In an effort to rein in costs, Vacasa has laid off approximately 1,300 workers, or about 17% of its workforce. It plans to “maintain the strong service levels,” but some investors are worried. In March 2023, The Motley Fool noted that “a lot goes into vacation rental management, and it will be challenging for the company to maintain its service standards with fewer people.” In October 2023, share prices of Vacasa and Sonder (another company in the space) plummeted.

Despite the leap to professionalization that occurred during the pandemic, individual hosts remain by far the largest cohort of hosts. The numbers are down a bit, but just a bit: 80% of hosts were independent at the beginning of 2018; 73% of hosts had fewer than 20 units as of March 2023. Skift believes the vast majority of those hosts have only one or two rental properties.

No matter how they’re managed, a growing number of short-term rentals are facing existential problems. Restrictions on STRs are getting harder to avoid.

Illustrated chart showing most vacation rentals are still run by independent hosts


Cities get serious about restricting STRs

Local governments from Honolulu to New York City are setting limits on short-term rentals, and they’re getting serious about enforcement.

Some communities, such as Dallas, Texas, are banning STRs from neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes. Such decisions aren’t lightly made: Dallas debated the issue for four years, perhaps because the law stands to render up to 95% of registered STRs illegal. The ordinance went into effect in July 2023, but the city held off on enforcement until December 14, 2023, to give hosts more time to comply.

New Orleans passed an ordinance in March 2023 that restricts STRs in residential zones; it allows each operator only one STR permit as of July 1, 2023. The operator must be a natural person (i.e., not a corporate entity) and must live on the same lot as the STR unit. They also need to resolve complaints within one hour, have at least $1 million in commercial general liability insurance, and include the STR permit number in all advertisements.

After a group of short-term rental operators challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance, the city was enjoined from enforcing the STR regulations until further notice. New Orleans will not accept applications for any new short-term rental licenses or STR license renewals until the issue is resolved.

This is just a smattering of what transpired in 2023. New requirements or restrictions were also established in Columbia, South Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; and Sonoma County, California. Phoenix is tightening restrictions as of January 15, 2024. Louisville, Kentucky, now requires hosts to live on a property for at least six months before applying for STR registration.

These new policies won’t be the last.

Every community handles STR regulations differently, and some take a more holistic approach than others. Like Dallas and Kansas City, some are prohibiting new STR licenses in residential areas. Communities that believe they already have too many STRs are capping the number of licenses allowed and creating lottery systems for new or renewing permits.

That’s the plan in San Diego, which has one of the biggest short-term rental markets in the country.

San Diego caps short-term rentals

Once upon a time, San Diego placed no limits on short-term rentals. The number of STRs grew, and grew, and grew. And some people were happy. And some were not.

So in 2018, the San Diego City Council established strict regulations for vacation rentals. Among other requirements, STRs would only be allowed in a property owner’s primary residence. However, after a referendum seeking to repeal the law received enough signatures to be put to a vote, the Council repealed the short-term rental law and went back to the drawing board.

Fast-forward to 2021: The City Council approved a new STR ordinance allowing one STR permit per individual and capping the total number of whole-home vacation rentals to 1% of the housing stock in most of the city. In the popular vacation destination of Mission Beach, the cap is a much higher 30%. The ordinance took effect July 1, 2022, but it didn’t become unlawful to operate a short-term rental in San Diego without a license until May 1, 2023.

More than 12,000 STRs were estimated to be operating in the city when the ordinance went into effect in 2022. As of January 2, 2024, the city had issued 8,323 licenses as follows:

  • 182 Tier 1 licenses (part time)
  • 2,569 Tier 2 licenses (home sharing)
  • 4,490 Tier 3 licenses (whole home, excluding Mission Beach)
  • 1,082 Tier 4 licenses (whole home, Mission Beach)

San Diego was set to run a lottery for whole-home licenses but canceled it because the number of applicants didn’t exceed the city’s cap. There were no more Tier 4 licenses available as of January 2, 2024, and only 929 Tier 3 licenses remaining. (The City of San Diego updates the data regularly.)

Like San Diego, most jurisdictions aren’t banning STRs outright. In some cases, however, the requirements are such that they may as well. New York City comes to mind.

New York: Welcome to my home

Life in New York City is more than in many other parts of the country. There are more people, more languages, and more tourists than in any other city in the United States. As of September 5, 2023, there are also more restrictions on short-term rentals than in any other jurisdiction, barring outright bans.

On January 9, 2022, New York City enacted its Short-Term Rental Registration Law (Local Law 18) requiring short-term rental hosts to register with the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) and include their short-term rental registration number on all advertisements for the property. Additionally, booking service platforms must verify that all STRs on their sites are valid and cannot process transactions for unregistered short-term rentals.

Few would argue that a registration requirement is unreasonable. These are businesses, after all. And given the trouble many jurisdictions have had with unregistered short-term rentals, prohibiting booking platforms from processing transactions by unregistered STRs seems a savvy move.

Where Local Law 18 goes too far, according to its critics, is that it requires STR hosts to live in the space they’re renting out — and to be there while guests are staying there. It also caps the number of paying guests at two and prohibits hosts from applying for more than one short-term rental registration number.

Per the New York City Office of Special Enforcement:

“Short-term rental refers to renting out a home or apartment for any period shorter than 30 days. You cannot rent out an entire apartment or home to visitors for less than 30 days, even if you own or live in the building. This applies to all permanent residential buildings.

Short-term rentals are only permitted if you are staying in the same unit or apartment as your guests, and you have no more than two paying guests at a time. The person renting out the home or apartment must ‘maintain a common household’ with the guests. Otherwise, the short-term rental is illegal. All other laws relating to the use of the space must also be followed (i.e., no sleeping in an area where it would be illegal to do so, such as an attic, cellar, or garage).”

Graphic illustrating some New York City short-term rental law requirements as of September 5, 2023

Inevitably, the law was challenged: Airbnb and three short-term rental hosts sued New York City (separately) in June 2023, calling the new rules “a de facto ban against short-term rentals.” But the matter was quickly resolved. In August 2023, a New York Supreme Court judge dismissed the lawsuit filed by Airbnb and short-term rental hosts, freeing the ordinance to take effect September 5, 2023.

Pam Knudsen, Senior Director of Compliance Services at Avalara, wonders how these regulations will impact hosts who may have used short-term rental income to afford to live in New York City, as well as those small businesses once frequented by short-term rental guests. “Part of New York’s appeal is its walkability. Local small businesses benefitted when visitors spent money within walking distance to where they were staying.”

Graphic illustrating reduction in New York City short-term rental listings from June 2023 to September 2023


No more hiding from the taxman

The registrations now required by San Diego, New York, and a host of other jurisdictions are designed, in no small part, to ensure each and every short-term rental complies with all regulations. These include operational restrictions, safety mandates, and of course, tax obligations.

Short-term rentals are generally subject to state and/or local accommodations taxes, but noncompliance tends to be high: A 2022 study by McGill University determined that 45% of short-term rentals operating in Los Angeles were illegal. And as of July 12, 2023, between 1,500 and 1,700 of the STRs operating in Philadelphia, or nearly 85% of the city’s short-term rental properties, were unlicensed.

Enforcement has historically been difficult because unregistered STRs fly under the radar. But it’s getting harder for short-term rentals to remain undetected; more and more jurisdictions are requiring STR hosts to post their license or permit numbers on all advertisements, including listings on booking agent platforms (e.g., Airbnb, Booking.com, and Vrbo). They’re also holding the booking agents to account.

Philadelphia is cracking down on unlicensed STRs by requiring booking agents to remove unlicensed short-term rental listings from their websites. New York City will penalize the booking platforms as well as the hosts if such requirements aren’t met. As these cities see results, other jurisdictions will undoubtedly follow their lead.

AI will find noncompliant STRs

Requiring short-term rental platforms to delist nonregistered properties is one way to cut down the number of illegal STRs in operation, but it’s not the only strategy being employed. A growing number of local governments, including Fort Worth and Galveston, Texas, rely on data-mining solutions powered by artificial intelligence to identify noncompliant properties.

Companies such as Deckard Technologies deploy data analytics and machine-learning to identify short-term rental ordinance violations. The tools scrape publicly available booking sites for short-term rentals then cross-reference the properties found with information held by tax authorities. Properties that seem to be lacking the proper permits and licenses are flagged for further investigation.

“Cities are also using this data-scraping technology to identify STRs that are registered with the state but not the city,” says Knudsen. “Once they have that information, they’re requiring the STRs to file local returns and remit payments for the missing periods.” She says jurisdictions are also looking into newly registered properties, checking to see how long they’ve been listed on platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo. “Short-term rentals that were operating prior to registering with the city may be liable for back taxes.”

AI and data-scraping technology beats city officials scouring Craigslist and other platforms for short-term rentals then cross-checking them with registered businesses — though that still occurs. In April 2023, after a deadly shooting took place at an illegal STR, a New Orleans city council member said the city was working to hire more short-term rental inspectors.

More registered businesses = more tax revenue

STRs that are registered and compliant generate more tax revenue for their communities than unregistered or noncompliant STRs. That, of course, is one of the main reasons local officials are turning to technology to improve compliance.

Real money is at stake. Martha’s Vineyard generated about $16.5 million in STR tax revenue during the first three years Massachusetts taxed STRs. Long Beach, California, collected more than $3.87 million in tax revenue from its roughly 830 short-term rentals in the first half of 2023 alone.

Governments typically put STR lodging taxes to good use. Many communities use lodging tax revenue to promote local tourism in general and the hospitality industry in particular. Some use this revenue to improve infrastructure that benefits residents and tourists alike. And increasingly, communities are putting at least a portion of lodging tax collections toward affordable housing initiatives.

Illustrated map of the U.S. showing examples of how some governments use STR lodging taxes

SOURCE: Avalara

But collecting and remitting lodging taxes can be a real burden for businesses.

How do they tax thee? Let me count the ways.

There are likely over 4,000 local accommodations taxes in the U.S., though the State Tax Research Institute says an exact count is impossible to ascertain. Since lodging taxes vary by location, determining local rates and exemptions is extremely burdensome.

For one thing, tax rates can change with the number of rooms in a property, observes Oliver Hoare, General Manager of Lodging at Avalara. Some jurisdictions in Washington state impose a special hotel/motel tax that applies only if there are 40 or more lodging units. Businesses with 60 or more units were once subject to a King County, Washington, convention and trade center tax on transient lodging charges, though as of January 1, 2019, the tax applies to all lodging businesses, no matter the number of units.

The number of rooms rented, or the number of adults in the room, can also affect tax rates: The Rhode Island hotel tax rate is 6% for room rentals but only 1% for whole-house rentals. And that’s not all. A “resort” can be taxed differently than a hotel. Rooms located in a historic building can be taxed differently than those in contemporary lodging facilities.

The taxes themselves are certainly problematic, but there are other issues as well.

Who picks up the tax bill?

One of the most troublesome aspects of lodging tax compliance is determining the answer to the most basic of questions: Who is responsible for collecting and remitting the applicable taxes?

If the host were the only party involved, taxes would clearly fall to them. Yet short-term rentals and other lodging providers often book through online travel agencies (OTA) and booking agent platforms — and understanding the lodging tax obligations of marketplace platforms is hard.

The relationship between an online travel agency and a merchant can work in a couple of different ways: The online travel agency can be the merchant, or the hotel or short-term rental host can be the merchant. If the OTA is the merchant, consumers pay a prepay rate when they book. If the hotel is the merchant, consumers pay a post-pay rate when they check in. Identifying the merchant of record is a key factor because it determines who’s liable for what taxes.

Pie chart: How online travel agencies boost bookings at independent hotels in Europe

SOURCE: Hospitality Net

It’s also critical to determine whether an OTA or booking agent is considered a “marketplace” for tax purposes. Platforms classified as a marketplace facilitator may be subject to marketplace facilitator laws and therefore may need to pay tax on the net rate as well as on the markup (or margin). Platforms not classified as a marketplace, for tax purposes, may only need to pay taxes on their markup.

It’s complicated — and complications are compounded by the fact that marketplace facilitator laws in many states hold marketplace platforms responsible for some occupancy taxes but not all occupancy taxes.

Furthermore, some state marketplace facilitator laws specifically do not apply to occupancy taxes. That’s how it is in Washington state, where a business providing online travel agency services for short-term lodging isn’t considered a marketplace facilitator. Yet even Washington generally holds OTAs liable for applicable taxes on their markup.

And sadly, when it comes to lodging tax, some states simply don’t provide clear guidelines for marketplace facilitators or the businesses that rely on those platforms.

What about the fees?

Determining who’s liable for applicable fees, as well as any taxes due on those fees, can be another quagmire. And there tend to be a lot of fees: online booking fees, cleaning fees, pet fees, resort fees …

Which of these fees are subject to sales and/or lodging tax? Who’s responsible for collecting and remitting them? Is it the booking agent, the OTA, or the lodging provider themselves?

It may not be the same entity. Also, the answer varies by location.

To address a gap in the city’s hotel tax, Anaheim, California, broadened the city’s definition of a lodging operator to include online and other travel companies, along with hotels, motels, and short-term rentals. The city further required online and other travel companies to collect taxes based on the full lodging charge, including but not limited to internet fees, overnight guest parking fees, and resort fees.

Depending on who collects the tax, or the type of room charge, the tax is remitted either to the tax authorities or to the lodging provider. So, that’s fun.

The city breaks it down like so:

  • An OTA must forward tax collected on a flat rate — known as a discount room charge — to the hotel or motel, which remits the tax to the city. If the guest pays more for the room than the travel company paid the hotel or motel (defined in Anaheim’s code as a facilitation fee), the OTA must remit the balance of tax due to the city.
  • An OTA collecting rent for an Anaheim short-term rental must pay the city’s full tax on the amount of the stay.
  • A hotel, motel, or short-term rental that collects the full amount of a stay from a guest and pays a flat commission rate to an OTA (for booking) must submit the full tax due to the city.
  • Hotels, motels, and short-term rentals are responsible for applying and collecting tax on overnight guest parking, resort fees, and other charges.

This is complicated, and it’s just one city. Platforms that facilitate bookings for hotels and short-term rentals nationwide have to deal with thousands of Anaheims.

No wonder the question of who’s responsible for taxing applicable fees can become contentious. Airbnb is fighting a $415K rental tax assessment the city of Boulder, Colorado, says it owes on guest fees. For its part, Airbnb maintains that Boulder County wrongly taxed guest fees.

Illustration of mobile device showing STR fees for accommodations and services

SOURCE: The Denver Post

What else could affect the lodging industry in 2024?

Technology will continue to shape the lodging industry

We talked previously about how AI is already helping local tax authorities find noncompliant short-term rentals. On the other side of the transaction, short-term rental hosts and property managers are using technology to streamline communications with guests and keep tabs on properties.

Skift Research believes generative AI will have an increasingly significant impact on various aspects of the travel industry, such as:

  • Customer support. LLMs (large language models, a type of AI that works with language) can improve chatbot experiences and provide more relevant customer support.
  • Reputation management. AI can help businesses respond to online reviews more effectively.
  • Performance advertising. Gen AI can streamline the travel planning process by improving the way information is summarized and presented.

According to a survey, 81% of Skift readers that work in or with the travel industry believe new tools based on generative AI will benefit their travel organizations. That said, most don’t see their organization prioritizing AI tools. A separate Accenture study on AI maturity bears that out: The travel industry was found to be among the least advanced industries for AI.

Bar charts showing if and how travel industry professionals plan to use AI


Focusing on technology can pay off: The travel booking app and online travel marketplace Hopper has grown more than any OTA other than Vrbo since 2019, due in part to its focus on social commerce and gamification. Skift says Hopper has “played to its strengths as a smaller, tech-led challenger brand.”

Tourism will help communities rebuild in the wake of tragedy

Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen is urging tourists to visit the rest of Maui while West Maui rebuilds itself after the devastating fires of August 2023. Perhaps more surprising, the State Agency for Tourism Development of Ukraine is “promoting travel internally and working with international tourism businesses to support its recovery.” In short, tourism dollars are sorely needed.

Sustainability will continue to matter (especially if the price is right)

Of the U.S. travelers surveyed by Skift Research in Q1 2023, 42% paid extra for a more sustainable travel option during the past 12 months. And 28% of those respondents paid more for a sustainable hotel or other accommodation. This is true for business travelers as well: 63% of surveyed U.S. companies, on average, are interested in increasing sustainable business travel, even if it costs more.

Bar chart showing travelers paid more for sustainable options in Q1 2023


But Skift Research’s Travel Tracker found that some people are only willing to pay so much for their principles. Of those surveyed:

  • 25% of travelers claim sustainable travel options are too expensive
  • 38% are willing to pay up to 5% of the travel product price for a sustainable option

There could be an opportunity here for businesses. Skift Research’s U.S. Travel Tracker findings suggest that a majority of survey respondents didn’t find any website messaging around sustainable travel. Providing more information about sustainability practices (if you have them) could help you stand out.

More bookings will go mobile

Mobile bookings tend to lag behind desktop bookings in the U.S., but they’re on the rise. Expedia Group reports that the booking share on phones and tablets increased 15% between 2019 and 2022. Similarly, mobile app search share in 2022 was 30% higher than in 2019.

Illustrated line graph showing mobile bookings in the U.S. increased from 2019 to 2022


That certainly isn’t everything, but it gives you a good idea of what’s affecting the lodging industry.

How Avalara can help

Avalara can help you account for tax changes and improve tax compliance for your business. Learn more about our automated solutions for tax research, calculating tax rates, preparing returns, and managing documents.

Avalara Tax Changes 2024

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