Mayor Stimpson:

January 2016 marked my first visit to Mobile. My husband and I came to town for the First Light Marathon. The race was enjoyable, and our post-race meal at Kitchen on George was delicious, but our stay at the Kate Shepard House was unforgettable. Bill and Wendy James, and the unparalleled hospitality they provide, are the reason we returned to Mobile in January 2017.

My travel philosophy is usually to experience a location once, and then move on, because there are so many unique places to explore. However, before we left the Kate Shepard House during our first stay, I had already planned our return visit. A weekend there provides more than just a place to rest your head. From the moment you arrive until the moment you leave, every effort is put into ensuring your relaxation, comfort, peace and happiness.

The Kate Shepard House for us is not just a place to stay; it is an experience. On the sad day when Bill and Wendy are no longer able to facilitate this experience, we will likely have made our last trip to Mobile.

The purpose of this letter isn’t to provide a travel review. My intent is to bring to light the inconsistency in lodging operation requirements in your city. As I am sure you are aware, Airbnb units have popped up in large numbers. They range in cost and comfort level, and allow your residents to make money off their spare rooms and homes.

It is my understanding these residents are not currently required under law to be compliant with various taxes, rules and regulations that are imposed on legitimate hotel and bed and breakfast operations. In reading up on the structure of Airbnb and the ways it is affecting cities and citizens across the country, it has made me think twice about ever using its services again.

We have stayed in two Airbnb rentals and enjoyed our stays. But now that we are aware of the uneven playing field for Airbnb and regular bed-and-breakfast owners, I can’t imagine lying down and getting any sleep at night on a pillow owned by someone who is skirting regulations to make a profit, all the while hurting those playing by the rules. Do I blame them? No. Nobody is stopping them and who doesn’t need to make a buck? Will I support them again? Not unless I can confirm that they are paying their share back to the community, just as every other business is required to do.

I understand you have many items on your agenda and an email from a stranger in Ohio may not be at the top. However, I would appreciate your attention to this matter and I hope you can see its urgency, as continuing to do nothing could eventually cause you to lose an absolute gem in your community.

Sarah Smith
Columbus, Ohio