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Updated: January 22, 2020

Maine Airbnb hosting revenue hits $100M mark

A Maine beach scene, with beach roses in the forefront, a rocky beach with a variety of people swimming or standing on the beach, and the Fort Williams ruins on a rocky outcropping in the background Photo / Maureen Milliken Airbnb guests in Maine topped half a million in 2019, with the largest numbers on five weekends in July and August, and the majority staying in Cumberland, Hancock and York counties. Pictured is one of the beaches at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth in July 2017.

Maine's Airbnb hosts earned $100 million from more than 534,000 guests in 2019, the short-term home rental company said. That's up from a reported 430,000 bookings in 2018 that generated $67 million.

Active listings in the state have exploded. There were 12,500 on Jan. 1, according to Airbnb. At the end of October, there were 20,000, and in the summer months, it's many times that.

Nearly one-third of the 2019 total was made on five big weekends in July and August, when hosts earned $31.1 million and welcomed about 113,800 guests.

The breakdown for those weekends, by amount earned, is:

  • Aug. 9-11, 23,600 guests, $6.5 million;
  • Aug. 2-4, 23,500 guests, $6.4 million;
  • Aug. 16-18, 22,900 guests, $6.3 million;
  • July 26-28, 22,400 guests, $6.1 million; and
  • July 19-21, 21,400 guests, $5.8 million.

Beaches, Acadia popular destinations

The county breakdown for the entire year shows that Cumberland, York and Hancock counties — home to Portland, many beaches and Acadia National Park — were the overwhelming hot spots for Airbnb guests. The breakdown, in order of amount earned by hosts, is:

  • Cumberland, 191,700, $30.2 million;
  • Hancock, 82,700 guests, $17 million;
  • York, 87,600 guests, $16.5 million;
  • Oxford, 37,500 guests, $5.1 million;
  • Lincoln, 20,500 guests, $3.8 million;
  • Knox, 20,000 guests, $3.8 million;
  • Waldo, 17,400 guests, $2.7 million;
  • Franklin, 13,700 guests, $2.1 million;
  • Penobscot, 16,700, $2 million;
  • Sagadahoc, 10,200 guests, $1.8 million;
  • Kennebec, 11,300 guests, $1.7 million;
  • Washington, 9,700 guests, $1.3 million;
  • Piscataquis, 7,500 guests, $1.1 million;
  • Androscoggin, 6,300 guests, $900,000;
  • Somerset, 5,400 guests, $600,000; and
  • Aroostook, 3,700 guests, $400,000.

Positives, negatives

In the news release announcing the numbers, the company stressed the supplemental income that most Airbnb hosts generate, as well as the economic benefits to communities.

Maine recognizes the importance of Airbnb to many communities, Steve Hewins, executive director of Hospitality Maine has told Mainebiz. But the organization, which represents more than 1,000 members in the restaurant and lodging industry, is also concerned about negative impacts. They include the effect on available workforce housing for hospitality workers.

He also said the playing field "isn't level," because of the lack of licensing and since many rental operators don't pay state lodging tax, don't adhere to state and local lodging ordinances or safety codes, and lack onsite management.

A survey last year of Airbnb rural states found that 51% of Maine hosts say hosting has helped them afford their homes. Hosts keep 97% of what they charge, with the rest going to Airbnb, which lists rentals and has a platform that allows guests and hosts to make rental transactions online.

Diving into new year

“As we dive into this new year, we are especially proud of the important role that our hosts have played in creating additional accommodations supply during the state’s top travel weekends while leveraging this demand to earn supplemental income," Josh Meltzer, head of northeast public policy for Airbnb, said. "We hope that these insights will help Maine families who are looking to open up their home as a short-term rental in identifying some of the best times of the year to do so.”

Across the U.S., Airbnb says that 92% of hosts recommend restaurants to guests; 56% recommend cultural activities and historic sites; and guests say 41% of their spending occurs in the neighborhood where they stay.

"Unlike other business models that siphon the money they generate out of communities, Airbnb activity directly benefits the communities our hosts call home," the release said.

The company in 2019 "reached a landmark cumulative $2 billion in tourist-related taxes that have been collected and remitted to local governments on behalf of our global host community over the past four years."

Airbnb said in September that it plans to go public this year, though its CEO, Brian Chesky, hasn't offered details in interviews. The company reported it made $1 billion in the second quarter of 2019, the second time it has done that. Airbnb's value is estimated to be between $31 billion and $38 billion, according to a variety of reports.

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