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Hints About Vermont’s Sharing Economy

The tremendous growth of AirBnB rentals in Vermont is putting money into the pockets of property owners (and state tax coffers), but not everyone is happy. First, key stats from AirBnB for 2016:

  • Vermont has 3,000 active AirBnB hosts.
  • On average hosts in Vermont earned $5,600 last year.
  • 140,000 visitors to Vermont chose Airbnb for lodging during their visits.
  • There was an 87% year-over-year increase in Vermont rentals from 2015.
  • The typical Airbnb property is occupied 23 nights per year for an average stay is 2.6 nights.
  • Many hosts use the supplemental income to pay rent, make mortgage payments, save for retirement, or repay loans.
  • There are currently over 300 rentals in Vermont listed on AirBnB.com, ranging from less than $100 to over $10,000 per night for a large house rental on the lake

The figures above show that peer-to-peer lodging is a winner for many of Vermont’s visitors and property owners. But for some owners of traditional lodging establishments – especially bed and breakfasts – the competition seems unfair.

To help level the playing field, Vermont worked with Airbnb to collect and remit the same 9% Meals and Rooms Tax levied on other lodging establishments in the state.

But some owners of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts want the state to go further, making Airbnb hosts subject to the same regulations as traditional lodging establishments

Airbnb is one of the foundational companies of the peer-to-peer “sharing economy” along with Kickstarter, Uber, Craigslist, and eBay. Disruption is a hallmark of these businesses. That disruption is happening in Vermont, but its total economic impact is unclear.

For example, AirBnB might provide a net boost to Vermont’s economy. It can encourage new tourists to visit the state, who then eat, drink, and shop here. And some of the money collected by Airbnb hosts is spent in the local economy.

The hospitality economy in Vermont has always been adaptive, accommodating cultural trends and tastes. But that doesn’t mean it can be taken for granted.

In 2014, people spent $1.6 billion at hotels and inns, eating at restaurants, and drinking at pubs and bars in the state.  And taxes on restaurant meals and hotel rooms are the third largest tax revenue source for Vermont. 

Perhaps the traditional lodging establishments will find a way to outcompete or co-opt the Airbnb model. Or maybe we’ll simply find that everyone wins when more people can visit our extraordinary state of Vermont. 

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