Jun 23, 2023 - Economy

Airbnb's continued march across the country

Illustration of a luggage cart carrying apartments, a house, and high-rises.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Many communities nationwide are home to Airbnb listings but no hotels, the company says in a new blog post framing that data point as evidence that it helps boost what it calls "dispersed travel."

Why it matters: Airbnb's presence in smaller communities outside traditional tourism zones is controversial.

  • Airbnb hosts are sometimes accused of effectively reducing the supply of local housing and thus driving up prices — but the company argues that its presence brings tourism dollars to areas that wouldn't normally see them.

By the numbers: As of 2022, about 65% of U.S. census tracts had at least one Airbnb listing but zero hotels, per an Airbnb analysis based on internal and OpenStreetMap data.

  • More than 44 million users stayed in such communities last year, "generating more than $10.5 billion in host earnings," the company says.

Driving the news: Airbnb says less-traveled destinations have gotten more popular in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • "Even as people return to cities and their favorite overseas destinations post-pandemic, we're seeing these trends of more distributed travel persist, to the benefit of smaller cities, small towns and off-the-beaten-path urban neighborhoods," per the company's release.
  • "In fact, since the pandemic began, over 2,100 U.S. cities and towns have received their first Airbnb booking."

Zoom in: Some popular domestic destinations reporting their first Airbnb bookings in the first quarter of 2023 include Bailey, North Carolina; Independence, Wisconsin; and Fort Branch, Indiana.

The bottom line: Even as some communities seek to better regulate Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms, the hotel alternative clearly continues to spread.

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