Airbnb listings in Maine continued their rapid growth last year, as the online home-sharing service cements its foothold in the state’s hospitality market.

About 282,000 people stayed in a Maine Airbnb in 2017, a 62 percent increase from the year before, according to new statistics provided to the Portland Press Herald. Airbnb hosts in Maine earned $43 million, a $17 million increase from 2016. The typical host earned $6,900 last year, according to Airbnb.

The sudden rise of short-term rental properties offered through Airbnb and other websites have sparked opposition and led to tight local regulations in some towns and cities.

“I think it is fair to say there is robust growth in Maine,” said Airbnb public policy specialist Andrew L. Kalloch. Portland and South Portland accounted for about 28 percent of statewide revenue and 30 percent of guest stays last year, and the five communities with the most Airbnb listings included top vacation destinations such as Bar Harbor and Old Orchard Beach.

Even so, Airbnb has grown statewide, Kalloch said. About 70 percent of its Maine hosts are in rural areas, according to Airbnb.

“One of the things we are excited about is how broad the growth is,” Kalloch said. Some of that growth is likely linked to property owners offering existing vacation rentals through the service, he said. Insurance and other tools that Airbnb offers to hosts make it an attractive alternative to a property management company or other forms of advertising, he said.


“The fact that we are a portal to a huge pool of potential guests, that is a big reason, too,” Kalloch said. “I think it is fair to say that folks who might have done this in a newspaper ad or in Yankee Magazine in years past have come to our platform and will continue to.”

The top four properties tagged by users as “wish list” places in Maine were all small cottages off the beaten path in Camden, Surry and Sullivan, near Mount Desert Island, and East Hancock, an unincorporated township east of Bangor. Kalloch ticked off the properties to highlight not only the breadth of types of listings in the state, “but how geographically diverse the community has grown to be. That is something we are excited about.”

Maine also has the oldest hosts in the country. According to Airbnb, roughly a third of hosts in Maine are age 60 or older, more than any other state in the country. That lines up with the state’s demographics, but extra income might help some people stay in their homes, Kalloch said.

Airbnb’s rise has been met with controversy and opposition in some towns and cities, where home shares have been blamed for disrupting neighborhoods and taking up workforce housing. South Portland is the latest community to grapple with regulations on short-term rentals like Airbnb in a lengthy and divisive debate over whether the city should allow “unhosted” home shares, which have been described as illegal inns. The City Council is poised to vote next week on rules that would prohibit unhosted rentals and greatly limit hosted stays in the city.

New registration rules in Portland that allow, but restrict, unhosted stays went into effect at the beginning of the year. As of mid-January, only 360 units were registered, about a third of the 950 active Airbnb listings in Portland, according to city records. Officials have contracted with a private company to monitor listings and ensure compliance with the new city rules, according to City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Grondin.

The company expects to deal with more local regulations in the future, Kalloch said.


“We are ready, able and willing to engage with communities when they have these conversations, to make sure our hosts’ interests are heard and they can continue to share their homes going forward,” he said.

Airbnb hosts also were criticized for possibly dodging Maine’s 9 percent lodging tax, but last year Airbnb signed a private deal with Maine Revenue Services to collect and remit the tax on behalf of its hosts. The company paid about $2.9 million in taxes to the state between April and October last year, said spokeswoman Kaelan Richards.

Even with surging growth, Airbnb holds only a modest place in Maine’s hospitality economy. According to Maine Revenue Services statistics, Airbnb host revenue in 2017 made up only 6 percent of the $723.4 million in Maine lodging sales between January and August last year.

Airbnb guests accounted for about 2 percent of the 13.8 million overnight visitors in the first eight months of last year, according to DPA, a digital research firm that collects tourism statistics for the state.

Airbnb doesn’t make growth projections, but expects people will continue to use its service in the future, Kalloch said.

“We think that people vote with their feet, whether it is with guest growth or listing growth,” he said.


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