NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - At least twenty percent of Bed and Breakfast locations in the New Orleans area had vacancies over Jazz Fest weekends according to the Professional Innkeepers Association of New Orleans (PIANO).
"In 18 years I have never had vacancies for Jazz Fest," Bonnie Rabe, owner of The Grand Victorian Bed and Breakfast on St. Charles, said.
Rabe, the president of PIANO, thinks the squeeze on B & B's comes from short term rentals like Air BnB, and now she's upset those unregulated businesses could be stealing her customers, while she faces regulations and taxes.
"These properties that are running illegally, not really recognized as businesses, so they're not paying any of the overhead that the rest of us are paying to follow the rules," Rabe said. "Our overhead is way more than what these rogue hotels are doing, just opening their doors and putting the money in their pockets."
Air BnB said its hosts want to pay local taxes, but claims it's a complicated process.
Meanwhile, hotels contribute millions of dollars to the New Orleans economy.
"Hotels put 251 million dollars a year into the community in taxes, assessments, public safety, support for things, and it's an extraordinary economic impact," Stephen Perry, President of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said.
Perry knows the shared economy isn't worth fighting, but thinks something needs to be done to keep competition on an even keel.
"They're a part of the modern world, in which we acquire products, but they have to compete on a level playing field as hotels, hotels spend a lot of money on safety on sanitation on cleanliness on fire protection," Perry said. "So it's very important that this growing new sector of the economy should be regulated, they should be taxed like a hotel, they're providing accommodations exactly like a bed and breakfast or a hotel."
Matt Easley, who owns what he believes is the oldest running Bed and Breakfast in the Marigny, thinks short term rentals are changing the face of his neighborhood.
"It's knocked out so many people who did live here, during the week, Monday through Thursday it's almost a dead neighborhood, there's so many fewer people," Easley said.
Over Jazz Fest Easley had his one bedroom B & B booked, but the requests for his location tells a different story.
"Normally in any given year, I would get probably between 60 and 80 requests because of my location. I'm just off of Frenchmen and a block off of Bourbon. This year, that wasn't the case," Easley said.
It's not just small bed and breakfast spots that are feeling the squeeze, though, even luxury hotels like Windsor Court are keeping their eye on the competition.
"There's no doubt, over certain high demand weekends, and there's a certain demand that's coming to the city and certain demand with more supply, it can affect everybody," David Teich, General Manager of Windsor Court Hotel, said. "Don't kid yourself, it doesn't matter the level of hotel, everything is competition for each other in the city and to us it's really all about this is a change in our business and we've got to do something about it to make our hotels as appealing as possible."
As hoteliers try to keep up, regulations that could level the playing field aren't having success. A bill that would have required short term rentals to follow similar fire codes as licensed Bed and Breakfast locations was deferred in the Louisiana legislature.
Air BnB said it encourages all of its hosts to follow local laws and urges them to install fire and carbon monoxide detectors. It said if guests report a hazard it will shut down the listing and investigate the problem to ensure the safety of visitors.