NNY Airbnb use grows during summer

Short-term renters in the north country like Better Farm in Redwood, pictured in June 2018, have seen an uptick in guests who used Airbnb to book their stays this summer. Johnson Newspapers

Travelers visiting the north country used Airbnb to book their vacation stay this summer more than any other source, according to the online short-term rental marketing service.

Hosts using the website to coordinate visits saw 50,430 guests at their rental properties in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties between Memorial Day and Labor Day, up from the 36,000 last summer, according to data from the company. The visits garnered north country hosts $9.1 million in supplemental income, up from $6.4 million last summer.

The bulk of north country visits coordinated through Airbnb were in Essex County, which attracted 26,100 guests during the summer. Four of the five top visited north country locations by travelers using the website were in Essex County, including Lake Placid — which was among the top 10 visited locations in the state — Saranac Lake, Wilmington and Schroon Lake. Plattsburgh was the fifth most visited spot in the north country, according to Airbnb.

Jefferson County hosts using Airbnb had 7,500 guests, Lewis County hosts had 830, St. Lawrence County hosts had 2,900, Franklin County hosts had 7,800 guests and Clinton County hosts had 5,300, according to the website.

All regions experienced an uptick in visitors using Airbnb.

“Throughout the summer of 2019, we have continued to see the significant, positive impact of our short-term rental community across the Empire State, including in the north country,” said Josh Meltzer, head of Northeast Public Policy for Airbnb, in a statement. “With more guest arrivals this summer than ever before, hosts and small businesses have been able to enjoy the opportunities created by an expanded tourism economy.”

Airbnb has grown in popularity in the north country for both property owners eager to earn more income and visitors. Almost 78,000 travelers used the service to book stays in north country communities last year, and 1,200 property owners registered with it as hosts during that time.

Brooke E. Rouse, director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, said the website highlights more lodging options available in the county, which can help bolster the local tourism industry and, in turn, more spending on food, gas and excursions. It also supports what Mrs. Rouse said she considers a more sustainable form of accommodation, short-term rental properties, in more rural areas like Hammond and Chippewa Bay.

On the other hand, Airbnb can pose challenges to traditional bed and breakfasts in St. Lawrence County, most of which are congregated in Canton and Potsdam. Mrs. Rouse, who owns 24 East Main Street Bed & Breakfast, Canton, said short-term rentals that advertise on Airbnb typically have fewer overhead costs, meaning they can offer lower rates. One bed and breakfast operator in Canton told her that workers at this summer’s Bassmaster Elite tournament in Waddington, who previously stayed with them, chose to stay at a closer rental offered through Airbnb, Mrs. Rouse said.

“I’ve seen several bed and breakfasts close last year ... most of them have aged out, but I think there is a certain pressure for those who operate a traditional bed and breakfast,” she said. “From a destination marketing standpoint, it’s helpful, too.”

Airbnb claims to help local economies grow by not only increasing commercial spending, but also by providing additional occupancy tax revenue to counties that have agreements with the company.

Four north country counties, Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence, have agreements to collect occupancy tax, or bed tax, from rentals registered with Airbnb. The company has remitted $637,000 in taxes to the four counties since late 2016.

Mrs. Rouse said St. Lawrence County dedicates a portion of its bed tax revenue, 45% this year, to tourism promotion, and more revenue means more capital to highlight the county.

“So that is good,” she said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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