Does Airbnb (or similar) help the local community?
We all know that the Airbnb website (and its copycat sites) are causing controversy because of the impact of ‘the sharing economy’. But can such services actually help local communities? In my experience – and thanks to various statistics – I can say ‘yes’.
Before we start looking at facts and figures, let’s take a look at the average Airbnb traveller – in fact, the guests that we have enjoyed hosting in our own rental. Almost without fail, these guests ask for personal recommendations.
They want to know from a local which is the best restaurant to go to for a romantic meal, a great pizza, authentic Greek food, a genuine American diner experience and so on. The host, who genuinely wants the guests to have a great stay, is happy to recommend his or her own local favourites.
But don’t hotel concierges do that?
Well, sometimes. And often the places recommended by the concierge (who might live fifteen miles away from the hotel) are places he or she has never visited – they just happen to have the advertising blurb. Sad to say, sometimes unscrupulous concierges recommend places because they get a bonus – financial or in kind.
Most concierges do a great job but they can only tell guests what they know. Local Airbnb hosts tend to know about the hidden gems in their neighbourhood. I recommend ‘mom and pop’ type businesses, never national chains. This keeps the income local and it’s exactly what guests want.
Local hosts personalise the experience for guests
No matter how much we choose to talk about the ‘sharing economy’ the fact is that this type of hospitality has been taking place for thousands of years. But in previous times hosts were known as ‘innkeepers’. And before large hotel chains were formed, these innkeepers were recommending local businesses to their guests.
By making sure that they guests have an experience that is personalised to them, the host is ensuring that the guests will consider returning to the area or recommending the place to their like-minded friends, thus bringing even more money into the locality.
In the case of Airbnb, local taxes are collected by the company and paid to the local authorities where applicable. For example, in Florida, guests pay Florida Transient Rental Tax of 6% and, depending on the county, any other applicable taxes.
This ensures that the local area’s coffers benefit from the short stay rental guests (just as they do from hotels, inns, motels and other accommodation).
Many hosts employ cleaners to prepare their properties for their guests. A rental property must be kept in tip-top condition in every way so hosts regularly employ local plumbers, electricians, decorators, repair people and so on.
We all know that there are cheap and rather nasty hotels that do not give their guests the best experience of the local area. This is in contrast to Airbnb hosts whose guests receive the best possible, personal experience.
Longer stays, higher spending
There have been many studies since the inception of Airbnb in 2008 that show that the average Airbnb guest stays for a longer in the area and spends more money with local businesses. Here are some basic facts and figures:
- The average Airbnb guests stays in an area 2.1 times more days than the average hotel guest
- The average Airbnb guests spends twice as much in the local area than regular hotel guests
- The majority of Airbnb hosts use the money they receive from renting to pay their mortgage or other necessary homeownership issues such as property tax
- Example: Airbnb visitors stay on average 6.4 nights (compared to 3.9 for hotel guests) and spend $880 at NYC businesses (compared to $690 for average New York visitors)
- The majority of Airbnb rentals are located outside the main tourist hotel areas, thus bring more income into the less touristy areas
- Depending on the area, approximately 20% of US hosts say that renting their room or apartment has helped them avoid foreclosure
- The average San Francisco hotel guest visits for 3.5 days and spends $840. The average San Francisco Airbnb guest visits for 5.5 days and spends $1,045
The bigger picture
Services such as Airbnb offer ‘overflow’ accommodation where none would otherwise exist. For example in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, hotels are all fully booked – the existence of private hosts means that more people can visit areas at popular times.
Our society today is not as civilised as we like to believe; prejudice is rampant. Facilities such as Airbnb (and its hosts):
- Allow people to travel to areas that might otherwise be beyond their means thus expanding their horizons
- Give people from difference cultures and countries the opportunity to meet each other in a friendly and relaxed setting, therefore increasing understanding
- Let people experience different areas in ways that differ to chain hotels, plus experience new activities
- Hosts who have children report that it is incredibly educational for their kids to meet guests from different cultures and countries, giving them understanding and a broader experience
Furthermore, Airbnb runs a disaster response system when areas are at risk (or affected by severe weather, terrorists attacks or similar disruptions. The company makes it easy for hosts to offer their accommodation free to people who have been rendered homeless or who are stranded because of unexpected local disasters.
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