Rural Ohio communities experience ‘explosive’ growth from Airbnb

KENTON – When April and Jason Miller decided to list their spare room on the popular Airbnb short-term accommodation website, they were unsure if they would be successful in finding people to stay in their predominantly rural community. by Kenton.

Despite their reluctance, they were able to rent the room a few days after posting it on Airbnb.

“It was pretty immediate,” April Miller said. “I would say we got our first rental in about 10 days. You would be shocked how many people visit Kenton.

It turns out that the success the Millers have had in using the short-term hosting service is not uncommon. They are among hundreds of hosts in rural Ohio who list their homes on Airbnb, according to a recent report from the company.

Based on the data from the report, Airbnb concluded that short-term rentals “create new economic opportunities where people live, supplement income that has stagnated, diversify at-risk income, and reduce the pressure people may be feeling. to move “.

The report says short-term accommodation also helps rural communities accommodate more visitors without having to invest in permanent infrastructure, which corporate hotel chains have been “reluctant to build in these areas.”

Airbnb growth ‘explodes’ in rural Ohio

Between February 2016 and February 2017, 14,000 guests arrived in rural Ohio homes. This represents a 201% year-over-year growth in customer arrivals, according to the report. As a result, Ohio ranked sixth in the United States in terms of Airbnb growth rate.

Using Airbnb, rural Ohio homeowners made $ 1.5 million over a year. Each of the 450 hosts raised an average of $ 3,400 during that period, according to the report.

“Maybe you don’t quit your day job for that $ 3,400, but on top of everything you’re doing to make ends meet, it’s really meaningful,” said team member Ben Breit. of Airbnb Public Affairs in the Midwest. “It’s money you can use to pay the bills, and it really adds up.”

But owners aren’t the only ones reaping the economic benefits of Airbnb listings. The report found that 42% of guest spending occurs in the neighborhoods they stay in. If there weren’t for short-term rentals, Breit said, that money would likely go to larger communities that have more accommodation options.

“Without Airbnb, people couldn’t stay in some of these rural communities,” he said. “Now they can have lunch at the local restaurant or have a coffee at the local cafe. It affects all the money spent on these local traders and small businesses. “

For the Millers, the extra income allowed them to make repairs to their 127-year-old home, as well as the studio they rent out in a former shed on their property.

“We don’t want to add more debt because we have young children and we’re in the middle of a lot of family expenses,” said April Miller. “So it allowed us to do some things at our house that we probably should have waited years to do, or get a loan for. “

The attractiveness of rural communities

When asked why people would choose to stay in rural areas, Breit said many renters are looking for an “authentic experience”.

“This is the dominant theme that we find among the overwhelming majority of people who travel on Airbnb,” he said. “They’re not looking for cookie-cutter tourism activities in a large metropolitan area, they’re looking to truly live like a local.”

Breit admitted that many people stay in rural areas to visit family – a scenario the Millers have seen several times – or because all hotels are full. This was especially common in the Cleveland area during recent large-scale events such as the Republican National Convention, NBA Finals, and the World Series.

However, he said many other people are just looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

“City dwellers often want a quieter, more nature-centric experience,” he said. “A ton of Airbnb guests will be venturing into more rural areas because they just want to get away from it all in a more scenic part of Ohio, and it provides that type of opportunity.”

The desire to break away from the hectic city life is something the Millers have seen firsthand from many of their tenants, they said.

“We had a few people who just wanted to get away,” said April Miller. “We had a mom from Michigan who stayed for a weekend just to rest her brain. We never really saw her, I guess because she was busy relaxing.

Agricultural animation

In addition to visiting family or getting away from city life, rural Ohio communities also offer an abundance of activities that some describe as “farm entertainment” or “farm tourism.”

“This is where they use traditional farms to attract people to come and see what the farms look like, and then they will have additional attractions,” said Mark Badertscher, agriculture and natural resources educator at the extension office. from Ohio State University in Hardin County.

In Hardin County, Badertscher said owners of a local apple orchard are hoping to develop a site where families can pick apples and see how apple cider is made, among other attractions. He said rural wineries are also opening their doors to the public, offering a variety of agricultural entertainment.

A few miles away in Putnam County, Suter’s Produce is hosting a fall event that includes a corn maze, hay walks, pumpkin picking, and cider press demonstrations.

“It’s a way to add value to traditional farms and create additional income for the landowner or farmer,” Badertscher said. “I think people who have no connection to the farm have an interest in knowing more about how their food is produced, how the animals are cared for and how the farm works.

Future growth

Breit said Airbnb’s rural growth is unlikely to remain above 200% per year, but he is confident the growth will remain strong as more people start using the service.

“As more and more people are exposed to it and people see their neighbors benefiting economically, I think it will definitely remain strong,” he said. “There is a demand for it, and it doesn’t matter the size of the city, because there are always people who are specifically looking for this type of experience. “

April Miller and her husband, Jason, in front of their rental, which was a shed behind their home in Kenton. Airbnb, a website that lists residences or rooms for short-term rent, reports that rural Ohio communities are experiencing explosive growth in short-term accommodation.

Contact John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.

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