New Data Shows Massive Increase in Airbnb Activity in Northern Michigan in 2021
$20 million: That’s how much money Airbnb hosts in Grand Traverse County raised between January and September of last year. No other county in the state saw more Airbnb revenue during that nine-month period, and other northern Michigan counties were also the best performers. The data shows the region’s appeal both as a tourist destination and as a medium-term place to stay for professionals who, thanks to a pandemic-induced explosion in remote working, can now do their work from anywhere. or.
In December 2018, The ticker reported that Grand Traverse County had “logged in $8 million in Airbnb host revenue and welcomed approximately 53,200 Airbnb guests” throughout this year. Those numbers were enough to make Grand Traverse County the second most popular Airbnb destination in the state, after Wayne County, which attracted around 80,000 guests and $9.2 million in host revenue in 2018. .
The 2021 statistics highlight both the massive and widespread growth of Airbnb activity in Michigan and the growing popularity of rural destinations. In the aforementioned January-September window, Airbnb data shows hosts in Grand Traverse County brought in $20 million, compared to $12 in Wayne County. Other counties in northern Michigan also recorded strong numbers during this period: $11.1 million in Leelanau, $8.1 million in Charlevoix, $6.9 million in Antrim, 5.6 million to Emmet, $4.9 million to Benzie and $1.3 million to Kalkaska.
In a press release sharing the data, Airbnb credited the widespread adoption of remote working as the factor driving so many people to rent vacation rentals in rural areas. By freeing people from the need to be in the office every day, Airbnb says, the pandemic has brought “the biggest change in travel since the advent of commercial flying.”
“Because of this travel revolution, people are now traveling everywhere, spreading to thousands of cities and towns and staying for weeks, months, or even longer,” the press release reads. “100,000 cities and towns around the world had an Airbnb reservation during the pandemic, and 6,000 places had their very first Airbnb reservation. This has created particularly significant opportunities for rural communities, allowing many to benefit directly from the tourism economy by hosting on Airbnb. From July to September 2021, domestic nights booked by U.S. guests on Airbnb for stays in rural areas increased 85%, compared to the same period in 2019.”
On average, rural Michigan Airbnb hosts earned $10,700 between January and September last year. These guests are mostly women (61%) and a quarter of them are over 60 years old.
The data matches what Traverse City Tourism (TCT) reported last fall, which is that the Traverse City area accounts for 22% of the state’s short-term rentals, but only 1.5% of its population. TCT also found that between 2020 and 2021, short-term rental supply in the area increased by 30%, from 2,886 units to 3,739.
Although Airbnb has heralded the surge in rural rental activity as a chance for rural parts of the state to “benefit directly from the tourism economy,” these data points also come at a crucial time in the short-term rental debate. Critics of short-term rentals say they threaten to devastate the character of popular tourist communities like Traverse City by removing long-term housing and making affordable housing harder to find for people who actually live and work in these communities.
This debate is currently being played out at the legislative level, where Michigan lawmakers are debating whether to prohibit municipalities from regulating short-term rentals. If the legislation becomes law, it could lead to even more Airbnb business in northern Michigan counties — and more concerns about affordability for residents year-round. The bill passed the Michigan House of Representatives last fall and is currently pending in the Senate.
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