Traverse City News and Events

A $24 Million Juggernaut: A Look At Northern Michigan's Airbnb Market

By Craig Manning | May 25, 2022

Nearly $500,000: That’s how much money Airbnb hosts in the City of Traverse City area pulled in over Memorial Day weekend last year, with the average host earning $800 over the course of the weekend. That’s just one of many eye-opening statistics recently shared with The Ticker. As Traverse City approaches yet another Memorial Day weekend – and with it, the start of yet another summer tourism season – we crunch some of the numbers to find out just how big Airbnb is in northern Michigan. 

$24 million: Total amount of income earned through Airbnb by short-term rental hosts in Grand Traverse County last year. No other county in Michigan netted more Airbnb host income in 2021, with Grand Traverse County not only outshining major urban epicenters like Wayne County ($17 million), Oakland County ($14 million), and Kent County ($8 million), but also other popular lakeside tourist draws like Berrien County ($23.5 million) and Allegan County ($18 million).

200 percent: Increase in Airbnb host income that Grand Traverse County has seen since 2018. That year, Airbnb hosts in the county earned a total of $8 million and welcomed approximately 53,200 guests. Three years later, the revenue figure has tripled – though Airbnb did not disclose guest numbers for 2021.

$259 million: Total amount of rental income netted by Airbnb hosts throughout the entire state of Michigan last year. The majority of that income (around $146 million) occurred in rural areas rather than in cities or metropolitan areas. Thorn says there were nearly 6,000 Airbnb hosts active in rural Michigan counties in 2021.

$14,000: Average total earnings for a Michigan Airbnb host in 2021.

9.27 percent: Share of Michigan’s total 2021 Airbnb host income that came from Grand Traverse County. For perspective, Grand Traverse County has just 0.915 percent of the state’s population, per 2020 Census data.

$52,500,000: Total dollar value for 2021 Airbnb host income across the five-county Grand Traverse region, which includes not just Grand Traverse County, but also Leelanau ($13 million), Antrim ($8 million), Benzie ($6 million), and Kalkaska ($1.5 million). These numbers mean that the five-county region accounted for more than 20 percent of Michigan’s total Airbnb host earnings last year.

$73,800,000: Collective 2021 Airbnb income of hosts in the 10-county northwest Michigan region, including earnings not just from the five-county region as outlined above, but also from Charlevoix ($10 million), Emmet ($7 million), Manistee ($3 million), Missaukee ($300,000), and Wexford ($1 million). The 10-county region accounted for 28.5 percent of Airbnb income earned in Michigan in 2021, and more than half the revenue generated in rural parts of the state.

1,300+: Number of towns in the United States that have seen their first-ever Airbnb bookings since the start of the pandemic. Haven Thorn, Airbnb's communications manager for North America, points to that number as evidence that the pandemic has driven considerable growth of Airbnb in rural markets. In Michigan alone, he notes, 30 localities have landed their first Airbnb bookings since March 2020, most of them very small towns. And nationwide, Airbnb data shows that guests booked 110 percent more nights at rural rentals in 2021 compared to 2019.

“Hosts in rural counties in the U.S. collectively earned over $3.5 billion over the year in 2021,” says Thorn. “And beyond that, looking at this year, Airbnb guests have already planned stays in over 72,000 cities and towns this upcoming summer. Tourism is spreading beyond your major cosmopolitan, well-known cities. We’re seeing a trend of people spreading out and discovering everything new and local within a 120-mile radius of where they live.”

$38 million: Rental income netted by Airbnb hosts in Michigan in the first three months of 2022. The average Michigan host earned $3,000 across January, February, and March, or an average of $1,000 a month. Nationally, Thorn says gross nights booked on Airbnb in the first quarter of this year exceeded Q1 bookings from 2019 by 32 percent.

$16 million: Dollar value of tourism taxes Airbnb collected and remitted in Michigan in 2021. Historically, Airbnb and other vacation rental platforms have not always required guests to pay the tourism taxes that hotel guests in many areas are required to pay – and that fund the operation of convention and visitors bureaus like Traverse City Tourism. However, Thorn suggests that tourism taxes are becoming more common across Airbnb, with $1.5 billion collected and remitted by the platform in the U.S. last year – an 87 percent increase compared to 2019. In Michigan, only two counties – Kent County and Genesee County – currently have accommodations and/or hotel-motel taxes that apply to Airbnb.

The Regulation Factor

When asked about Airbnb’s stance on the local control of short-term rentals – and about the bill Michigan legislators are considering that would ban local governments from regulating short-term rentals as a matter of zoning – Thorn tells The Ticker the company “supports fair regulations for home sharing around the world.”

“We work very closely with local governments and legislators to pass fair laws that benefit everyone – not just the guests and hosts, but also keeping in mind the neighbors, who we consider to be equal stakeholders who are part of the Airbnb community. Over the past five years, Airbnb has partnered with cities around the world, centered around empowering everyday people to continue to earn extra income by sharing their home but also around supporting common sense short-term rental regulation to ensure that they do so responsibly.”

In September 2020, Airbnb launched the “City Portal” platform, billed as “a first-of-its-kind solution for communities partnering with Airbnb.” Thorn says the tool is intended “exclusively for governments and tourism organizations” and provides an easy way for regulators to keep track of local Airbnb activity, enforce local regulations, monitor tourism trends on the short-term rental side, and communicate directly with Airbnb for support. And while the initial “pilot partners” for City Portal were mainly major metropolitan areas, Thorn says adoption is growing to include smaller and more rural communities as well – creating openings for places like Traverse City to potentially climb aboard.

“We have more than 160 City Portal partners right now, and we have a goal of having 250 by the end of the year,” Thorn says.

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