Orange County attracted the most guest bookings through Airbnb in the region last year.
Its 51 rentals available through the online platform attracted 5,000 guests and earned the county’s host community $549,300 in supplemental income in 2018, according to the company.
That put Orange in 20th place among the state’s top 40 cities and counties for Airbnb revenue.
Listings in the county range from Monrovia on Main, a five-bedroom home in downtown Orange, to The Servants Cottage at the 600-acre Wolftrap Farm near Gordonsville. There are even rooms in several traditional venues, such as the Mayhurst Inn and the Holladay House Bed and Breakfast.
Overall, Airbnb said that its host community in Virginia earned a total of nearly $104 million in income while welcoming nearly 750,000 guest arrivals to the state in 2018. Those hosts typically earn about $5,500 annually.
The numbers reflect only rentals through Airbnb, the largest of the home-sharing platforms that connect hosts with potential renters who want to stay in houses, apartments or rooms instead of hotels.
“2018 was another great year for Airbnb in Virginia, with more local residents and small businesses able to benefit from the economic opportunities created by home sharing than ever before,” said Liz DeBold Fusco, Airbnb spokesperson, in a news release.
Jack North, who owns Mayhurst Inn with his wife, Pat, said that they began listing rooms at the 158-year-old plantation manor house on Airbnb two years ago. On one hand, he said, the platform was “killing the real bed and breakfast business.” On the other, it charges them only 3 percent per booking. Expedia, another online booking site they use, charges 18 percent.
Most customers find the inn through the internet, and about 5 percent of its customers make reservations through Airbnb, North said. They pay a lodging tax in addition to the room rental, just like other inn guests. It’s a fee not all Airbnb properties charge because they aren’t licensed. Mayhurst is required to because it is a licensed bed and breakfast.
North said that he worked with the state to allow localities to license Airbnbs.
“What we would like is a level playing field,” he said. “If we have to be licensed, they should be licensed. If we have to be inspected, they should be inspected. If we have to pay taxes, they should have to pay taxes.”
Fredericksburg began requiring residents who list their homes on Airbnb to get a special-use permit in 2016 unless they are able to operate by right. They also have to register and pay a 6 percent lodging tax, just like bed-and-breakfasts and hotels.
According to Airbnb, Fredericksburg had 4,800 guest arrivals in 2018, which is 200 less than Orange, but the city’s total host income of $623,600 beat Orange by more than $74,000. Culpeper County attracted 4,700 guests who paid a total of $551,300 in total host income.
Airbnb’s statistics for other counties in the region are:
- Stafford County, 4,000 guest arrivals and a total host income of $468,600
- Spotsylvania County, 830 guest arrivals and $110,400 in total host income
- Caroline County, 30 guest arrivals and $1,500 in total host income.
Airbnb got its start in 2008 when co-founder Brian Chesky and some friends decided to turn the house they were renting in San Francisco into a temporary bed-and-breakfast. There was an international design conference going on in the city, and all the hotels were sold out.
Since they didn’t have any beds, Chesky and his friends pulled three airbeds out of a closet, inflated them and called their place the Air Bed & Breakfast.
“This was not going to be a business; this was a way to make rent for the month,” he was quoted as saying in a 2014 New York Times article. “We, of course, evolved from there, but the name stuck.”
Today, Airbnb’s accommodation marketplace provides access to more than 5 million places to stay in more than 81,000 cities and 191 countries, according to the company’s website. In Virginia alone, there are now approximately 10,200 Virginia hosts who share their homes via Airbnb, typically earning about $5,500 annually in supplemental income.
The company also launched Airbnb Plus last year. It’s a selection of one-of-a-kind, design-focused homes that have been inspected and verified in person against a checklist covering cleanliness, comfort and design. The Plus platform recently expanded to Arlington.
Airbnb also expanded its Experiences section throughout Virginia in 2018. It includes such things as nature walks with llamas at Lower Sherwood Farm in Albemarle County, a tour of breweries in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood, and a guided tour of Arlington led by a historian.
Experiences is expected to add more options in Virginia this year.