Airbnb boom continues in Adirondacks

LAKE PLACID — New numbers from Airbnb show Essex County is leading a rapid growth of Adirondack visitors booking lodging through the popular online peer-to-peer vacation rental service, though its boom is not limited to just the Tri-Lakes region.

Between Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, St. Lawrence and Warren counties, the calendar year 2016-17 (June 1 to June 1) resulted in 52,400 guest arrivals across the eight counties, with a high of 19,800 in Essex County. That’s more than a third of the total bookings across the eight counties.

The total is more than four times as many guest arrivals across those same eight counties as in the period from two years prior; 12,400 guests booked in 2014-15.

With Airbnb hotspots in Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Keene, Keene Valley and Wilmington, Essex County’s growth to nearly 20,000 arrivals this past year, from 5,000 arrivals in 2014-15, reflects a growth of 296 percent.

Each of the other seven counties in the Adirondack Park has trumped Essex County’s percentage growth in that timeframe. Hamilton and Herkimer counties, which had barely any Airbnb listings in 2014-15, have seen guest arrivals via the service explode, albeit largely thanks to smaller sample sizes.

Both Hamilton and Herkimer registered just 100 guest arrivals in 2014-15, compared to 800 and 1,400 this past year — growth of 700 percent and 1,300 percent, respectively.

Franklin County also saw an explosion, jumping 417 percent from 1,200 guest arrivals in 2014-15 to 6,200 this past year.

Airbnb growth in Clinton County was a step behind Franklin, as guest arrivals there grew 320 percent in that span, from 1,000 in 2014-15 to 4,200 in 2016-17.

In terms of sheer numbers, the county behind Essex was its southeasterly neighbor Warren — home to popular vacation destinations up and down Lake George. Warren County had the second highest number of guest arrivals in 2016-17 at 15,200, a growth of 322 percent from 3,600 in 2014-15.

Warren and Essex counties comprised more than two-thirds of all bookings in the eight-county Adirondack region in 2016-17.

Essex County is also where those renting their homes and properties are making the most money.

In its Adirondack Growth Report, Airbnb said an average group size of three to four people stay for an average of two to three nights across the eight counties, “highlighting how (the) Adirondack Park is attracting families.” In Essex County, that resulted in average earnings of $5,400 per vacation rental listing over the course of 2016-17. Fulton County was next highest at $5,300, followed by Franklin at $5,000, Hamilton at $4,500, Warren at $4,200, Clinton at $3,700, Herkimer at $3,000 and St. Lawrence at $2,800.

“Host payouts in these eight Adirondack Park counties have increased from $1.7 million in 2014-15 to $7.4 million in 2016-17,” the report reads, “an increase of 335 percent.”

Essex County also led the Adirondacks in total hosts who registered at least one booking in this past calendar year, both in terms of percentage and overall numbers. With 340 booked hosts in 2016-17, Essex had more than a third more booked hosts than any of the other seven counties (Warren was next closest at 250). That reflects a growth of 240 percent for Essex County between 2014-15 and 2016-17 – despite already having the highest number of booked hosts in 2014-15, at 100.

Essex County’s percentage growth in booked hosts in that time span, 240 percent, was only eclipsed by Herkimer County, in part due to Herkimer’s initial smaller sample size. Herkimer grew from 10 booked hosts in 2014-15 to 45 in 2016-17 (350 percent).

Clinton County saw the next most growth in booked hosts in that span, from 30 to 100 (233 percent), followed by Fulton and St. Lawrence counties, which each grew from 20 to 60 booked hosts, a rate of 200 percent.

Franklin was next at 188 percent growth in that span, from 40 to 115 hosts. Warren was next, growing from 90 hosts to 250 hosts (178 percent), while Hamilton County was last, as it doubled its booked hosts from 10 in 2014-15 to 20 in 2016-17.

These increased numbers mean more revenue in terms of bed (aka occupancy) tax for counties such as Essex and Franklin, which each added vacation rentals to their bed tax laws in 2015. Last summer, each county entered into agreements with Airbnb to have the online service collect taxes from individual listings in each county.

A stipulation remained, though, that Airbnb would not provide the identities of who was paying the local tax.

That missing detail remains something Essex and Franklin counties want to tackle. In conjunction with the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism — which is partially funded by the bed tax — the counties are looking into software programs such as STR (Short Term Rental) and Taxcrawler to identify who is paying the tax and who isn’t.

Airbnb began collecting the 3-percent occupancy tax on all of its vacation rentals in Essex and Franklin counties last fall, adding in the tax to the final price vacationers pay.

The San Francisco-based service has been around for nearly nine years and claims it operates in 65,000 cities and 192 countries.