Local Airbnb income nearly doubles

Brandon Paykamian • Jan 8, 2019 at 11:40 PM

In 2017, Northeast Tennessee welcomed more than 12,000 Airbnb guests to the region. That number nearly doubled to 23,000 in 2018, again showing just how hospitable people in the Tri-Cities area are.

Compared to 2017 Airbnb revenues in Northeast Tennessee, which stood at about $1.2 million, hosts earned $2.3 million in 2018, according to numbers released by Airbnb Tuesday.

“This comes as Tennessee residents increasingly embrace the home-sharing platform as an opportunity to earn supplemental income and make ends meet,” Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit said. “The Tri-Cities benefits in particular from home sharing via expanded lodging capacity afforded during major races at Bristol Speedway that cause local hotels to sell out.”

Again, Washington County racked up the most revenues after welcoming about 10,000 guests for a total host income of $1.1 million. Sullivan County welcomed 6,200 guests for a total of $588,000; hosts in Carter County welcomed 2,400 for about $188,000; Unicoi had 1,800 guests for $172,000; Greene County hosts earned $148,000 after welcoming 1,700 guests; and Johnson County hosts earned about $138,000 for roughly the same number of guests.

Briet said there are a number of reasons for the growth over the past year, including more business travel and rural tourism.

He said Airbnb is “thriving in areas of the country that may not immediately come to mind” as guests look to stay in places “off the beaten path.” He added that Northeast Tennessee is “generally becoming a more popular region.” 

“At a general level, we’re seeing tremendous growth in the more rural areas of Tennessee,” he said. “We’re seeing a much more steady stream of people coming to experience the region aside from those main events.”

Brenda Whitson, who serves as executive director for the Johnson City Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, said the growth in Airbnb revenues seems to correlate with the growth in visitor spending. Though the 2018 numbers are not yet available, visitor spending went up nearly 5 percent to $257.54 million in 2017.

“We are happy as a city and Convention and Visitors’ Bureau when we see an increase in visitor spending and tourism for all the different opportunities that are here,” she said.

However, Whitson said Airbnb hosts are not paying lodging taxes in Johnson City, as they are elsewhere in other localities.

“Hopefully, if this market is going to continue in this upward trend, there can be a discussion with them and taxing entities that say, ‘If you’re generating this kind of money, we need to look at how we’re going to tax you,’” she said.

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