FAGAN: Why Does Mitch Landrieu Want Fewer Tourists In New Orleans?

I love to travel and doing so has become so much more affordable with the advent of the so- called “sharing economy.” Using companies like Uber and Airbnb will save you hundreds on your next trip. The last time I was in Las Vegas I used Airbnb to rent a room for about a third of the cost of a hotel. The room was in nice gated neighborhood and the owner of the condo told me she could not make ends meet if it were not for the ability to rent out her guest room using Airbnb. The beauty of Airbnb is tourists rate where they stay and those renting rooms rate their visitors so it takes the mystery out of it. The arrangement we had was a win-win for both of us.

But thanks to Mitch Landrieu that same win-win is not available for French Quarter home owners or the potential tourists hoping to stay in the Quarter. The mayor and the city council banned Airbnb and short term rentals in the French Quarter. The ordinance will most definitely mean fewer tourists visiting New Orleans.

As to the real reason why Landrieu and his mostly far-left city council members assaulted the private property rights of French Quarter homeowners is a mystery. We know Democrats typically hate private property rights and the free market for that matter, but I suspect the motive behind the ban comes down to what it usually does with the left, special interests. And the special interest this time would be the hotel industry. Much like the taxi industry lobbies hard to kill ride-sharing, the New Orleans hotel industry has worked hard to kill Airbnb in the French Quarter. And it worked. They found a friend in Mitch and his council.

You would think with all the bad publicity New Orleans is getting with the out-of-control gang violence the mayor would do everything he can to encourage tourism. And make no mistake about it: Airbnb travelers are now a big part of the tourist economy, especially among millennials.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, announced recently his company will be ready to go public in a year, and investors estimate its value to be about $30 billion. By comparison, Hilton’s market capitalization is $19 billion, and Marriott’s is $35 billion.

Revenue has soared since Airbnb’s humble beginnings in 2008, and by 2013 it was clocking in around $250 million. Some estimates put the company on track for at least $1.6 billion in revenue this year, up over 70 percent from its roughly $900 million run rate in 2015.

Despite all of that on Wednesday the city came down hard on French Quarter homeowners hitting seven properties with a total of $17,000 in fines. These are the first fines imposed under the city’s new short-term rental ordinance.

Property owners have the option to appeal the decisions in Orleans Civil District Court. Yeah, good luck with that. French Quarter homeowners have little juice when going up against Mitch Landrieu and his friends in the hotel industry.

Dan Fagan is a former television news reporter, journalism professor, newspaper columnist, and radio talk show host. He grew up in New Orleans and currently lives there. He is a regular contributor for The Hayride. If you have a news tip for Mr. Fagan you can reach him at [email protected] or 504-458-2542.

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