As the spring semester wound to a close, proud parents and family members from all over the United States descended upon Florida to watch their graduate cross the stage and help them clear out of their apartments and begin the next phase of their lives. Hotel space had been reserved for commencement weekend years in advances, so many families opted instead to rent out an AirBNB for their stay in the sunshine state.
According to one report, the AirBNB bookings in Gainesville and Tallahassee more than doubled for the weekends of the respective graduation ceremonies. Orlando, Jacksonville, and Pensacola also saw a boom in AirBNB bookings around the graduation times of their universities, too.
Even outside of the market for graduates’ families, AirBNB has strengthened its foothold in central Florida considerably. In the first quarter of 2017, AirBNB usage loosely doubled for Osceola County, Orange County, and Seminole County.
Tom Martinelli is the policy director for AirBNB in Florida and himself a Florida Gator. To him, the home sharing economy has proven a booming success for Florida’s tourism. While many have held their breath as they anticipated the impact of the Trump administration’s travel ban on tourism, AirBNB has helped keep the tourism economy afloat. As Martinelli himself wrote in a column in February, “Increased tourism spreads economic benefits throughout the community.”
Martinelli also notes that, “Home sharing is complementing Sarasota’s traditional tourism industry, including hotels, rather than competing. Visit Sarasota recently announced that Tourist Development Tax collection rose 4.9 percent in FY2016, while hotel visitors increased 1.4 percent, even as guest arrivals to Sarasota via Airbnb grew 153 percent.” For many families, AirBNB offered a number of amenities that hotels simply can’t. Firstly, since users book a family’s home, users feel more at home. To that end, travelers can be choosy about the number of bedrooms they need, their price range, and accessibility. AirBNBs are often more economical because many offer functional kitchens that allow renters to cook meals rather than eat out for the whole weekend.
Florida is presently debating the appropriate way to tax money spent on AirBNB expenditures so that home sharing isn’t suppressed but also contributes to the infrastructure of the city.