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Rural Florida experiencing explosive Airbnb growth

Editor’s note: At the request of several readers, I am re-publishing excerpts from the article from which I gleaned the stats for my Airbnb/agritourism/ecotourism column last week.

Airbnb, a community-driven hospitality company that allows private individuals and families to rent spare rooms or other spaces to tourists in lieu of traditional lodging, announced today that Floridians in rural counties earned $24.7 million in supplemental income while welcoming 125,000 guests through the Airbnb vacation rental platform over the past 12 months, representing a remarkable 110 percent rate of year-over-year growth.

For this report, Airbnb compiled data for the 32 Florida counties officially designated as “rural” by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Gadsden is among the 32 “rural” counties included in the data compilation.

The 110 percent growth rate of Airbnbguests to state-designated rural Florida counties nearly doubles the growth rate to urban counties. According to Airbnb, the data is indicative of an increasing desire among travelers to get off the beaten path and experience all of Florida, not just the big cities or traditional vacation hubs.

This report comes on the heels of new data demonstrating that the Florida hotel industry is booming, reporting record rates of hotel development, total hotel rooms available, hotel room nights sold, hotel occupancy rate, and hotel room revenue. Yet the vast majority of Florida’s hotel inventory is centralized in the large metro areas and well-known beach towns. This leaves large swaths of rural Florida with very limited traditional lodging options – and sometimes none at all.

As such, home sharing has allowed homeowners in rural regions throughout the state to fill that void and earn valuable supplemental income while opening up their counties to tourism and the revenue that comes with it. For example, Wakulla County is home to just three hotels according to, yet the local Airbnb host community has helped the county take full economic advantage of its growing popularity with visitorswith 205% year-over-year guest growth over the past year as local hosts earned a combined $276,000 in income. Similarly, Gulf County — also home to just two hotels according to — is an increasingly popular destination for Airbnb guests. Local homeowners helped catalyze the local economy by hosting 4,700 guests in the past year to the county, earning over $1 million in supplemental income in the process.

“Delivering tourism – and the revenue that comes with it – to rural Northern Florida has been a longstanding goal,” said State Sen. Bill Montford, whose district includes 10 of the rural counties adjacent to Tallahassee. “When that tourism is delivering hundreds of thousands of dollars into the pockets of working-class Floridians in the process, that’s even better.”

“The agricultural communities I represent are hungry for economic development,” said State Rep. Ben Albritton, whose district includes the heart of DeSoto County and Hardee County. “Opening up these counties to people-powered tourism is putting valuable extra income into pockets of homeowners and hopefully will encourage more small businesses to invest in rural Florida.”

By the numbers:

Airbnb in Gadsden County

• >$50,000: Gadsden County Airbnb host income from August 1, 2017 – August 1, 2018

• 350: Airbnb guest arrivals in Gadsden County over past 12 months

• 39%: Year-over-year growth in Airbnb guest arrivals in Gadsden County

• 15: Active Airbnb hosts in Gadsden County

Are you an Airbnb host in Gadsden County? Email me at and share your stories and motivations behind hosting travelers.

Special to the Herald