Lenox Innkeepers Want ‘Level Playing Field’, But the Game Has Changed
One of the big topics of discussion in the Town of Lenox is a group of innkeepers are losing money and they feel that short-term rentals and the surge of Airbnb are hindering performance.
The Berkshire Eagle reported that this group went before the Lenox Planning Board to discuss potential "zoning bylaws" to regulate house rentals of 30 days or less. The group, as a whole, is concerned that they are all "under performing."
Here is the problem with this scenario; things evolve. Services evolve. The game is changing, not just in this realm, but everywhere. This is 2018! Making money and supplementing income is not as easy as it once was. What can be done? Find a way to give consumers something they need, while putting a few extra dollars in your pocket.
What is wrong with that?
I will admit that there is some validity to the concerns of the innkeepers, and even the town. There are taxes, business expenses and other things that certainly are reasons for concern. That is not debatable. However, there are a lot of other businesses who have been experiencing similar hardships; whether it be due to technology, finances, or, and I'm just being honest, a better, overall business model.
There are certain amenities and services at inns and hotels that these other services can't possibly provide. On the flip side, not everyone needs the cleaning services. Not everyone needs the amenities, or the majestic views of the mountains; they just need a place to sleep so that they can experience that they want in the area, how they want to experience them.
We live in a world where things change very, very quickly. Business models that worked in the 1980's, 90's, or even 3 years ago may not work today. When that happens, approaches need to change, businesses need to evolve however they can. Trying to monopolize an industry is not the way to do it. Whether or not these "bylaws" get put into place, it will not keep down the business trends. The local folks who have that entrepreneurial spirit deserve the same opportunities.
One of these owners quoted a member of the Planning Board in a past meeting when stating her case; "I don't want to see Lenox become a place where everybody visits and nobody lives." This line of thinking is incredibly short-sighted. You want people to live in Lenox, yet you want to take away opportunity? How does that make sense?
An example that a lot of people have used who are totally against what these innkeepers are trying to do, which is a lot of people, is discussing local Taxi companies. With the evolution of transportation services, i.e. Uber, Lyft and many others, who have made things very easy for consumers, Taxi companies have felt the effect for sure. It is a new world where people want convenience, they want to be able to do things quickly and hassle free. That's 2018, and it's only going to continue to change as the years go by.
In the example of Lenox and the Airbnb, short-term housing debate, I'm sure that when these folks had the idea to list their own properties and fulfill a need in the area, the majority didn't say to themselves, "You know what would be fun? Screwing over the inns in Lenox." Nobody said that. They said to themselves, more than likely, "I really want to go on a vacation with my family", or, "We really need to upgrade our bathroom, but we need to find a way to afford it," or even, "I just lost my job and I'm having a hard time paying the bills. What can I do to make that happen?"
Stop taking everything so personally!
You know what makes people and businesses perform better in the long run? Competition. A competitive field makes things interesting, doesn't it? I can assure you, that in thriving areas like Downtown Pittsfield, where there are a lot of fantastic places to eat and have an adult beverage or two, groups aren't coming together to stop a new spot from opening up. Nobody is saying, "Oh no you don't. You're not going to have a food truck out and about while we are serving lunch." They are saying, "OK, what can we do to make ourselves better? What can we provide that this new restaurant, or food service, can not? What can we do to evolve in these fast-changing times?"
When you are faced with a challenge, you don't go over the heads of your competition and try to shut them down -- you evolve with the times. Maybe it takes a look in the mirror to tell yourself that what worked for you 20 years ago just doesn't work now. That's not because you are not a great business owner, it's just because of the changing, fast-paced world we live in.
Competition makes us better people and better businesses. It's not personal -- it is just life. There are locations that are still doing well and making money, but not all. There are valid concerns from both sides of this equation. The answer isn't just going to the Planning Board, it is a setting up a community setting where all parties can be involved to have a discussion. A "level playing field" chat is one that can be had. Not giving the other side of things a chance to weigh-in isn't the fair way to settle it.