Lodging in the age of Airbnb: Are Summit County’s short-term rentals hurting its hotels, inns? | SummitDaily.com

Lodging in the age of Airbnb: Are Summit County’s short-term rentals hurting its hotels, inns?

Eli Pace | epace@summitdaily.com

Sales tax receipts show 3- to 6-percent growth across the board in Summit County in 2017. One exception to the trend was the hotel and lodging sector in Frisco and Breckenridge.

A 1.27-percent drop in Breckenridge's tax revenue related to short-term lodging — which includes hotels, inns and less-traditional accomodations — is likely a result of many factors pushing on the market, said the town's director of finance Brian Waldes. He believes one of those is additional competition driving down the price of a night's stay.

At cheaper average daily rates, a dip in revenue would be only natural, he explained.

"We see short-term lodging as an outlier," Waldes said of the small decline in the town's lodging industry. "It's also more price-sensitive than the other sectors so if they lower their pricing to be competitive, they might be generating less revenue because the average daily rate fluctuated."

“I think it’s fairly clear through these reports consumers are shifting more of their dollars to short-term rentals.”Chad MostFrisco revenue specialist

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One source of that increased competition is likely the rise of online rentals through websites like Airbnb.com or VRBO.com.

In Breckenridge, lodging was down 11.45 percent in December compared to December 2016, attributed partly to unfiled returns and to reduced sales volume compared to December 2016.

Waldes thought it was a good sign construction did strongly in 2017, and he doesn't think the slip in lodging revenue is any reason to doubt the strength of the local economy.

"All the other indicators are showing growth," he said, "so there's a lot of factors that go into that."

Still, lodging remains an almost $150 million industry in Breckenridge, and Waldes said town officials will keep a close eye on it going forward.

Conversely, other Summit County towns, like Silverthorne, saw growth in their revenues related to lodging, and short-term rentals through websites like Airbnb.com or VRBO.com certainly played a key role in that growth.

In Silverthorne, revenue from lodging was up 18.1 percent in 2017, which the town's revenue administrator, Kathy Marshall, has attributed to a relatively new hotel, the Hampton Inn and Suites, being fully booked or close to it, in addition to "stepped-up collections" on short-term rentals.

Looking at Frisco's data, however, the growth of short-term rentals and the effect they're having on the town's hotels and inns might be more apparent.

Overall, Frisco's revenue from lodging was up 4.14 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. At the same time, tax revenue has grown from $285,000 in 2012 to over $490,000 in 2017.

However, Frisco breaks down its numbers where other towns don't, and while hotels and inns were actually down 1.09 percent over 2016, its short-term rentals were up a staggering 30 percent.

Noticing the shift from hotels and inns to short-term rentals, Frisco revenue specialist Chad Most explained that short-term rentals have been accounting for an increasing percentage of the town's lodging revenue as of late.

In 2017, approximately 42 percent of governmental revenue from the lodging sector came from vacation rentals versus hotels and inns, he said. For comparison, short-term rentals accounted for 36 percent of Frisco's lodging revenue in 2016 and only 28 percent in 2013.

"I think it's fairly clear through these reports consumers are shifting more of their dollars to short-term rentals," Most concluded.

Not everyone is feeling the pinch, though.

The owner of the Frisco Lodge, Susan Wentworth, bought the lodge from her parents in 1980. It's been in the family almost six decades, and while she's concerned about the rise of short-term rentals, Wentworth said they haven't had too big of an effect on her business yet.

"But I'm kind of unique with a bed and breakfast, so you don't have to do your own cooking," she said, explaining she believes her lodge appeals to a demographic that's not always well-served by online rentals and that might be why she hasn't see online rentals cut into her revenues.

"More importantly," she said, "I think the issue here — and I have heard quite a few people complain — is that (short-term rentals) are in residential neighborhoods."

This leads to problems over parking and noise, just to name a couple, and Wentworth said she worries that the website rentals, which act as much like commercial enterprises as the lodge she owns does, don't have to shoulder the same costs of operating that hotels and inns do.

But overall, the 18-room Frisco Lodge still had a good year in 2017, Wentworth said, adding that the first two months of 2018 were up considerably compared to the first quarter of 2017.

"I can't say I have seen any real detriment to my business from Airbnb and VRBO," she said, "but I do agree we need to get them on the same playing field as all the other lodging establishments."

Frisco Town Council has a work session focused on short-term rentals scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday.