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Airbnb growing fast in northern New York’s rural areas

December 7, 2018
By JESSE ADCOCK - For the News ( , Lake Placid News

SARANAC LAKE - Airbnb's growth in rural areas of the North County is substantial, with near 70,000 individuals using the service to stay in northern New York in the last 12 months - an approximate 60 percent increase from the 12 months previous, according to data from Airbnb.

Statewide, the short-term rental service is growing fastest in the New York's rural areas - not its most populated cities. In fact, the majority of renters headed to the North Country are coming from urban centers, according to Airbnb's data. The largest group of renters hail from New York City, followed by Rochester, Montreal, Syracuse and Buffalo.

"Airbnb's growth in rural areas statewide isn't solely measured by the many more visitors from around the world who are discovering some of New York's most beloved and unique communities," Josh Meltzer, head of northeast policy for Airbnb wrote in an email. "It's also measured by the many more middle class families who can use their biggest financial investment - their home - to make ends meet."

According to data Airbnb provided, 970 hosts across the rural regions of the North Country used the service to rent out their spaces, up 28 percent from the 12 months prior. Of those hosts, 38 percent were using Airbnb to rent out their units for the first time. Sixty-three percent of hosts were women, and approximately a third were seniors.

The typical host made $6,458 from their Airbnb listing. In rural areas of the North Country, hosts made $10.8 million collectively.

Hosts in Franklin County made nearly $2 million in 2017, up from approximately $1.1 million in 2016.

Vacation rentals are not a new phenomenon in the North Country, especially Lake Placid, but Airbnb has made the lodging option more popular.

"We've noticed that the growth rate in Airbnb has been greater than other short-term rental sources," said James McKenna, CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. The nonprofit group uses AirDNA, a data analysis service that scrapes information form the Airbnb website, to do their own analysis coupled with public records.

There are other short-term rental services in the region, such as like VRBO, Flipkey and HomeAway, alongside local vacation rental services, but Airbnb's share of the market is increasing. ROOST measured that last year Airbnb held 40 percent of short-term renter business. This year, with data up to September, Airbnb held 46 percent of short-term rentals.

On July 11, in the middle of the tourist season, ROOST measured how many Airbnbs were active in the counties of Essex and Franklin. According to McKenna's data, there were 747 active Airbnbs in Essex County that day, with a total of 2,239 bedrooms. For comparison - there were 2,200 rooms available across hotels, motels, resorts, and bed and breakfasts. ROOST in its study calls these "traditional lodging."

"It's significant because it mirrors the number of traditional lodging rooms available," McKenna said.

In Franklin County, there were 208 active Airbnbs, with a total of 559 bedrooms. ROOST further broke it out by village, with Saranac Lake at 136 active listings, hosting 340 rooms. Tupper Lake had 20 active listings with 66 rooms. Both of these, he said, roughly mirror the traditional lodging rooms available.

"It's market-driven," McKenna said, noting the difference in these consumer demographics in the short-term vs. traditional split.

A short-term renter is on average younger than their traditional lodging counter part, according to ROOST's analysis. Short-term renters spend more on entertainment and more cash overall, but their party size is also larger, and they stay longer.

Traditional lodgers spend on average $705 across an average 2.7 day trip, while short-term renters spend $463 across 4.4 days on average.

"So you can see there's a little difference there," McKenna said. ROOST's data for short-term renters is based on one year's worth of data from voluntary survey respondents, so it's not as accurate as the years of data the organization has gathered on traditional lodgers. He said the numbers concerning short-term renters are likely to change as more individuals are surveyed in the coming years.

"There are things we should be concerned about," McKenna said of people converting their rental units to short-term rentals. The availability for long-term local workforce housing withers while prices go up, McKenna said.

"It's not something you or I can dictate," McKenna said. "It's a market-driven thing."

A Nov. 30 Lake Placid News article reported that hospitality businesses in Lake Placid are employing more long-distance commuters, and some business owners link that to more Lake Placid housing being converted to short-term rentals.



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