Airbnb growing in rural areas of Florida

Report shows 32 counties earning $24.7 million in income

By Nathaniel Rivas - Digital Intern
Airbnb

The most wish-listed Airbnb in Flagler County has 42-inch wood cabinets, granite counter tops, 10-foot ceilings and an open living room.

Homeowners in rural counties of Florida are experiencing a notable increase in income thanks to Airbnb guests who want to experience and explore off-the-beaten path areas in the Sunshine State.

Airbnb released a report saying 32 counties in Florida earned $24.7 million in supplemental income and took in 125,000 guests in the past 12 months. This resulted in a 110 percent rate of year-over-year growth. 

The new growth rate is double the growth rate in urban counties, and it comes after Gov. Rick Scott reported in June that the hotel industry in Florida is booming. 

"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," said state Rep. Ben Albritton, of the 56th District, which includes DeSoto County and Hardee Counties. 

The counties are listed as "economically distressed rural counties" with a population of 75,000 or less. Some counties have a population of 125,000 or less and are next to a county with 75,000 or less with three or more economic distress factors.

Some of the rural counties don't have a wide variety of hotels. Wakulla County has three hotels, according to Hotels.com, but the local Airbnb host community helped boost popularity and income to a total of $276,000 which shows a 205 percent year-over-year growth. 

"Delivering tourism -- and the revenue that comes with it -- to rural Northern Florida has been a longstanding goal," said state Sen. Bill Montford, of District 3. Ten of the 32 rural counties are in Montford's district. 

The state-designated rural counties saw the most economic activity in the 32 counties over the past year. Two sections of the designated counties include combined host incomes exceeding $1 million and combined incomes exceeding $50,000. 

For example, Flagler County welcomed 14,000 guests over the past 12 months, with 240 active hosts. Data shows a 95 percent year-to-year growth in guest arrivals, which exceeded $1 million. 

Here is a breakdown of some of the counties with the most economic activity over the past year: 

For more on Airbnb in Florida, visit the website here

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