More than 25,000 guests descended on Bradenton-Sarasota in 2016 to stay in accommodations listed on Airbnb, resulting in more than double year-over-year growth for the platform in each city.
“Bradenton hosts welcomed 5,000 guest arrivals in 2016, which reflected 165 percent year-over-year growth,” Airbnb Florida spokesman Ben Breit said in an email. “Sarasota hosts welcomed 23,000 guest arrivals in 2016, which reflected 153 percent year-over-year growth.”
The average Airbnb host in Bradenton-Sarasota is 50 years old, which “skews about 10 years higher than the rest of the country,” Breit said.
Airbnb hosts in Bradenton-Sarasota and tourism research expert Walter Klages of Tampa-based Data Research Services, the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s choice research firm, say the platform provides a good option for a particular category of travelers. Though Klages and his team haven’t collected data specific to people staying at Airbnb accommodations and he cautions against making conclusions based on too small a sample size, he has made several observations about Airbnb travelers.
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“They typically have a party size of four or larger,” Klages said. “Also their length of stay tends to be longer and they have different types of expenditures. They do not really dine out with the same frequency that you will find in people staying in commercial lodging.”
800 active Airbnb hosts in Bradenton and Sarasota
Relatively few Floridians choose to use Airbnb, in Klages’ experience, but another highly coveted visitor by tourism officials does opt for Airbnb instead of traditional lodging: European visitors. Airbnb hosts echoed Klages and said they often welcome international travelers.
Vanessa Turner, an Airbnb host with property in Northwest Bradenton, started hosting in November 2015.
“The majority of our guests are not American, coming from eastern Asia and throughout Europe, but a healthy mix of younger couples and retirees,” Turner said in a Facebook message.
Her busiest time of year matches what tourism officials and numbers from the Manatee County Tax Collector’s office present as “tourist season” in Manatee County, from roughly September to April.
Beyond the “excellent” source of extra income, Turner said she and her family have enjoyed spending time with and learning from guests who stay with them.
A few guests have been quiet and kept to themselves but we've had so many enjoyable experiences, cooking and eating breakfast together and discussing international differences in parenting, to sharing a round of golf and hitting the beach
Vanessa Turner, Bradenton Airbnb host
The typical Bradenton Airbnb host earns $5,100 in supplemental income per year, according to Breit’s email.
And while growth for Airbnb continues on an upward swing, so do the competition concerns of traditional bed-and-breakfast owners and hoteliers. Jane Storey, who owns the Londoner Bed & Breakfast in downtown Bradenton with her husband Jay, said though she worries a bit about losing business to the platform, a number of factors ease her mind.
“I offer a different experience than an Airbnb,” she said.
A stay at Storey’s converted Victorian home includes a guaranteed breakfast and daily room service. She’s built lasting relationships with returning customers that help to insulate her from market changes like the entry of platforms such as Airbnb.
28,000 guests stayed in Airbnb facilities in 2016
“I would hate to think it would take away completely from my business but I’m sure it is affecting it somewhat,” Storey said.
She said she doesn’t feel pressure to lower her prices based on what she sees on Airbnb because she thinks they’re already reasonable.
Kelly Ann Dixon, director of sales and marketing at the downtown Bradenton Hampton Inn, said she can understand why visitors choose Airbnb for a “unique escape,” but branded hotels offer yet another lodging option with different benefits.
“There’s a lot of things you don’t get with an Airbnb compared to staying with a hotel,” Dixon said. “You have that consistent service, you have that safety feature, you have your room service, your special amenities that you’re not necessarily going to get at an Airbnb.”
It’s too early, she said, in the lifespan of Airbnb to determine what, if any, effect Airbnb has on the hotel business.
Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Elliott Falcione said he appreciates Airbnb as a way to promote another unique aspect of the area.
“As long as they are complying with our tax office and contributing to our economy, which we know a vast majority are, we have no issue with them and see them as a positive,” Falcione said in an email. “The CVB would consider a partnership with Airbnb next fiscal year, if it makes sense for our industry.”
Airbnb hosts are individually responsible for remitting tourist taxes, commonly known as bed taxes, to the Manatee County Tax Collector’s office.
The Manatee County Tax Collector declined last year to enter a partnership with Airbnb where the company would collect and remit the money on behalf of Airbnb hosts. In the past month, Airbnb announced that it has made agreements with Hillsborough, Polk, Hardee and Okaloosa counties.
No matter how much Airbnb grows, Storey doesn’t plan to change her focus.
“We’re just plugging away and trying to keep it going,” she said.