Airbnb says it generated more than $45 million in Florida tax revenue last year

Clearwater Beach on Aug. 15, 2017. [
Charlie Kaijo | TIMES]
Clearwater Beach on Aug. 15, 2017. [ Charlie Kaijo | TIMES]
Published February 12 2018
Updated February 12 2018

Airbnb announced Monday it’s more than doubled its Florida tax revenue dollars in the last year at $45.7 million, further cementing the app that lets you rent your home out to strangers as part of the Sunshine State’s tourism landscape.

Meanwhile, the hotel industry is also on an upswing. The most recent available data from Visit Florida shows hotels stays rose 4.7 percent from last year’s third quarter, with more visitors (88.2 million) coming to the state than ever before in the first nine months of 2017.

So is the narrative that’s long pitted Airbnb against the traditional hotel industry starting to change?

"The pie has grown" said Leroy Bridges, a media and interactive director with Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater.

Read more:Bed-and-breakfast owners closing their doors blame Airbnb, local government

There seems to be room for both — at least in Tampa Bay. Bridges said Airbnb may be attracting a more frugal tourist to Tampa Bay who wouldn’t normally front the cash for a traditional hotel stay.

"Both in Pinellas and Hillsborough we have seen tremendous growth and that parallels in hotels growing in occupancy," said Airbnb’s Florida spokesman Benjamin Breit. "It’s healthy for the Florida economy and for segments, like vacation rentals, that appear to be expanding the scope of visitors to the state."

The company also says $1.87 million of this year’s tax revenue went straight to Pinellas County through a bed tax agreement that began in 2015 — the first one Airbnb had in the state.

The only county to outdo Pinellas was Broward County, which started its bed tax agreement in May and collected $1.87 million in just eight months.

Bridges said that Allegiant Airlines’ affordable direct flights to the St. Pete-Clearwater Airport bring in visitors who are looking outside the traditional hotel or resort.

"They’ve never taken a vacation before," he said, "and Airbnb could be the quarter of the cost of a hotel."

That could account for why Pinellas is seeing more Airbnb users than its cross-bay counter part, which is known to host more professionals and conferences.

Read more:Airbnb visitors to Florida surge 75 percent in 2017

Erin Power, press secretary, with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association said there can be a misconception her trade group views Airbnb as competition.

"We understand the importance of embracing modern rental technologies," she said. "But we are also seeking to update laws that were written well before these platforms existed."

Hillsborough County home to most of the area’s traditional hotels, pulled in fewer Airbnb tax bed dollars at $562,000 — but it had only started the agreement on Feb. 1.

Airbnb says it remitted more than $33 million to the state and another combined $12.7 million went to the 39 counties with bed tax agreements.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] or (813) 226-3400. Follow @sara_dinatale.