It’s a controversial service: beloved by travellers and hosts, but pilloried by housing activists who say it’s soaking up rentals in Vancouver’s tight housing market.
As the City of Vancouver mulls a new bylaw that would force hosts to get a business licence, the short-term-rental service has published a new report suggesting its pumping big bucks into the local economy.
LISTEN: Airbnb says it’s worth $400 million to the Vancouver economy
Airbnb Canada’s chief public policy officer Alex Dagg says that economic benefit works out to about at least $402-million for the city in the last year alone.
That figure was arrived at by commissioning a UVic professor who studies the economic spinoff benefits of events, though Dagg admits it was conducted using Airbnb’s own data.
“I think we can quibble about independent or not. What we believe in is trying to understand the impact on our community.”
Dagg says one those impacts is that Airbnb use spreads tourism dollars farther into the community than they might otherwise go, with 52% of guests’ daytime spending occurring in the local neighbourhood where they are staying.
“It means travel and tourism dollar gets spread into different communities in the city, which we think has very important impact for local businesses here.”
But is it fair to say that the company is really bringing all of that money into Vancouver? Wouldn’t many of those travellers have come anyway?
“I don’t think it’s fair to say that all $402 million would not have occurred because of Airbnb,” she admits.
But she says the service is boosting the travel dollar by reducing costs for travellers, meaning they stay longer and spend more elsewhere, like restaurants.
“Using Airbnb really provides more affordable options, and it really allows people to travel here and experience this city, and stay longer by using an Airbnb option, and allowing people to travel and stay in a city that they might not otherwise be able do so.”
As for Vancouver’s proposed new bylaw, Dagg says the company is committed to working with the city, and sensitive to hot button issues like hosts who own multiple properties.
She says the company has worked with many cities that have their own restrictions, and that they plan to partner with Vancouver when it comes to new regulations here.