Larry Webb moved to San Diego after six years of service with the U.S. Marine Corps and purchased the home where he and his wife raised their family.
After the economic downturn of 2008, Webb started hosting with Airbnb and, because of that, he met dozens of families with military connections along the way. “If it weren’t for hosting on Airbnb, we would have to have sold our family home,” he said.
“Being in San Diego, we regularly host families with connections to the military. Our favorites are multi-generational families coming for recruit graduation ceremonies at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. This year, we have hosted seven families coming for graduations,” said Webb, whose story can be found on the Airbnb website.
In a 2017 op-ed published in the Michigan Chronicle, Janaye Ingram the former executive director of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and current Airbnb director of national partnerships, said nearly 400 Detroiters share their homes via the Airbnb platform.
Over the past year, those hosts earned $6.8 million in supplemental income through Airbnb while bringing over 41,000 guests to every neighborhood of the city.
These visitors are finding local Old Redford restaurants, shopping on the Avenue of Fashion and experiencing Midtown museums.
Their presence — and their dollars — reflect an important part of the city’s comeback by virtue of attracting visitors to some of the historic African-American neighborhoods hungry for economic growth, Ingram said.
The supplemental income — about $6,000 annually for the typical Detroit Airbnb host — is helping working people across Detroit find new ways to make ends meet and better afford to keep their homes.
This is particularly meaningful for the 200 Detroit hosts who simply share an extra, unused room in their homes.
“Take Debra, for example. She rents an extra room in her Five Points home, often to young professionals relocating to Detroit for new jobs,” Ingram said.
“She uses her hosting income to help pay the bills and it has given her the opportunity to meet visitors from across the globe. She views herself as an ambassador for her neighborhood, facilitating business for local merchants by offering tips to her guests hoping to live like native Detroiters for as long as they’re in town.”
Debra’s story is indicative of what’s seen in Michigan and throughout the country.
The traditional hospitality industry has long neglected communities of color, with hotels nearly always concentrating in the wealthiest neighborhoods, according to Ingram.
This has historically deprived minority neighborhoods and their small businesses of the opportunity to benefit from tourism revenue. Home sharing is helping to correct this disparity by activating economies for Detroit neighborhoods without hotels.
Documents posted with the Federal Trade Commission further shows that Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world – online or from a mobile phone.
There are a range of benefits associated with home sharing, including positive social and environmental impacts.
For hosts, the economic benefit of Airbnb is often life-changing, and for cities, it is revitalizing for neighborhoods and small businesses alike, according to the documents.
The growth and mainstream adoption of home sharing is leading to fundamental changes in how people travel and experience destinations.
These trends are resulting in increased travel, increased spending, and an engagement with different parts of a city than visitors have typically visited.
Data shows that Airbnb attracts new visitors who stay longer than traditional tourists, spend more on local businesses, and are more likely to be return guests to the market as a result of their experience.
These realities fundamentally strengthen the tourism industry and create additional opportunities for growth without requiring new investment or infrastructure on that part of the city, according to the FTC documents.
Thirty-five percent of Airbnb guests report that without Airbnb, they either would not have traveled at all, or would have shortened their trip.
In addition, on average, Airbnb guests stay 2.1 times longer and spend 1.8 times more than typical visitors.
This additional travel and spending has happened while travel in traditional accommodations has also continued to grow.
Recent analysis shows that hotel occupancy rates in the United States are at their highest level in over 20 years, having climbed over 10 percent since 2009, the first full year Airbnb was in the marketplace, FTC documents show.
Further, not only are guests staying in different parts of a city, but research indicates that 42 percent of guest daytime spending remains in the neighborhoods in which they stay.
This means that more money is being spent outside of traditional tourist neighborhoods — strengthening local communities and businesses. Such investments in local commercial districts benefit both hosts and non-hosting residents.
Since Airbnb was founded in 2008, hundreds of thousands of hosts worldwide have welcomed guests into their homes. Hosting fundamentally helps hosts make ends meet, keeping residents in communities amid increasing living costs and income inequality.
Airbnb hosts’ income levels closely reflect the income distribution of Americans across the country, and the economic benefits often allow them to remain in their communities, according to documents posted with the FTC.
A typical Airbnb host in the United States earns roughly $7,500 per year, helping them make ends meet. Further, 48 percent of the income hosts earn through hosting on Airbnb is used to pay for regular household expenses like rent and groceries, and 53 percent of hosts report that income earned from hosting has helped them stay in their homes.
“If you book a home on Airbnb, you will stay in someone’s home or, as a host you can earn extra money,” said Cassidy Blackwell, the company’s director of Strategic Projects.
“Whether you are looking to save money, pay off loan or you’re retired or working off of a fixed income, we’ve seen a lot of momentum for people who are older to rent out their home or extra room to make more money,” Blackwell said.