AUSTIN (KXAN) — With approximately 11,000 short-term rentals (STRs) in Austin, the Texas capital has become a key destination for visitors looking to experience the city from a resident’s perspective. Now, industry experts weigh in on how the $20 billion-a-year industry needs to evolve to continue customizing optimal experiences for users.

South by Southwest Conference & Festivals hosted “Back to the Future of Travel: Short-Term Rentals.” The panel included Chip Conley from Modern Elder Academy; Rena Pacheco-Theard from Boutiq; and Roman Pedan with Kasa.

Each leaned on expertise in the vacation home rental business, with Pacheco-Theard’s focus on developing a luxury rental brand while Pedan considered his a “love child between Airbnb and Marriott.” Conley — who currently runs a midlife workshops and educational academy — previously worked for Airbnb.

Right now, the biggest threats facing short-term rentals are the economic pressures spurred on by COVID-19, compounded by the need for regulations, each said.

“Long term, I think the regulation and how short-term rentals exist in a symbiotic relationship with cities is an important consideration,” Pedan said. “And one without its resolution causes uncertainty on both sides, that makes it hard for a vibrant ecosystem to exist.”

Here in Austin, despite the city having approximately 11,000 STRs, fewer than 2,000 are licensed, as of a December report.

During his time at Airbnb, Conley said he encouraged the company’s STRs becoming taxed and regulated as a means of establishing legitimacy and trust between property owners and community members.

“I’m a firm believer in regulation,” he said. “Imagine starting a business in which all the regulations are not countrywide application. They’re almost all the municipality or even the neighbor — what a complicated business model.”

For Pacheco-Theard, she said a patchwork of regulatory practices that vary between entities reduces the company’s safety and economic prosperity, as well as overcomplicating the process.

“There’s all the services for the property that is a major dynamic influence, not to mention the tourism dollars by allowing people to stay in these properties, and they’re going to to eat, and they’re doing experiences,” she said. “I think there is a true public good in what we’re doing and we need to make sure that that’s reflected in public policy.”

During the session, moderator Melanie Fish with Expedia Group referenced a February Texas Monthly article that referred to STRs as a “monetized nuisance.”

Each emphasize the importance of regulated, permitted operations in communities. Pacheco-Theard said her company adopts a good neighbor policy and curates property amenities with neighboring properties in mind.

A recent example of that included removing outdoor speakers that could serve as a noise-based nuisance to surrounding properties.

“If you say this is a great way for people to travel, it should be a great thing to have in the neighborhood,” she said.

As for the future of STRs, some ideas thrown out included communal living spaces for multi-family use, where properties feature individual units but offer group amenities residents can share.

Others flagged including building out systems where STR property owners can easily bounce between living in their permanent residence to traveling and staying in other properties within the rental system.

From a hospitality standpoint, incorporating tipping services in for cleaners and other maintenance personnel — similar to how Uber and Lyft added voluntary driver tip options — was discussed.