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Airbnb report says Long Island bookings jumped by nearly 40 percent

The backyard view of a North Sea rental is pictured on June 6. The house was rented through Airbnb to a family attending the U.S. Open. / Veronique Louis

Airbnb Inc. saw its Long Island bookings jump by more than a third this summer, fueled by a sharp uptick in first-time hosts in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, new numbers show.

The counties together had 81,700 guest arrivals from May 25 through Sept. 3, compared with 59,300 for the same period in 2017, San Francisco-based Airbnb reported.

Nassau posted 11,700 guest arrivals, a 39.3 percent increase from the 8,400 last year. The number of hosts rose 20.2 percent to 445 from 370. Roughly 28 percent had never been Airbnb hosts before, likely listing their properties for the first time in response to increased demand, the company said.

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Suffolk had about 70,000 guest arrivals, a 37.5 percent increase from the 50,900 last summer, the company said. The number of hosts increased to 2,300 from about 1,800, an increase of about 28 percent. Nearly four out of 10 of the hosts were newcomers.

"I've had a good year," said host Marty Lentz, 41, who has rented her second home in the North Sea hamlet in Southhampton for about three years. "I really enjoy hosting."

Lentz, an attorney who lives in Brooklyn, said she believes more people — hosts and guests — are turning to Airbnb as they discover the ease of using its app. For hosts, they don't have to use a real estate agent, draw up their own lease or handle security deposits. Airbnb handles all that, she said.

Her rental home, replete with a little private beach, is greatly in demand during the summer months, with occasional use during the cooler months. 

"The millennials have always been down with (Airbnb)," she said. "But now the generation ahead of them is realizing it's not some sketchy, fly-by-night thing, but a platform you can trust."

New York City and New York State were the top city and state of origin for visitors to both Nassau and Suffolk, but both drew guests from afar as well. Nassau had guests from 72 countries and 1,773 cities, while Suffolk notched 76 countries and 3,136 cities.

The growth of Airbnb has posed a challenge to the traditional lodging industry, which complains that home-sharing services are not subject to the hotel and motel taxes that go toward promoting tourism.  

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To Kristen Jarnagin of Discover Long Island, which is funded by those taxes, the data suggest the region has a shortage of traditional lodging options.

"We definitely have a lack of supply on Long Island," she said. "The good news is we're seeing our numbers steadily increasing and you're getting the same story from Airbnb."

In addition, she said, Long Island is seeing increasing demand as a destination for national and international travelers.

Rosanne Washington said she tends to draw older guests to her studio in Sea Cliff, people coming in to visit the grandkids. Some people come in to take a quick course at nearby colleges. She said there is a dearth of affordable hotels in the area.

The process of setting up an Airbnb account was pretty easy, said Washington, who described herself as a retired interior designer. People contact Airbnb for bookings, which sends on the request for a rental, and she has the option of refusing. The company sends her a text a few days before, reminding her that guests are coming, she said.

Washington has offered her place, walking distance to the beach and the village, on Airbnb for a handful of years. She thought she was the only one doing this in her area, but then found out there were about a dozen others.

"This serves the community," Washington said. "People need a place to stay."

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A March 2018 study done jointly by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University found that U.S. hotel revenues would be 1.5 percent higher if not for competition from Airbnb based on data through 2014.

At the same time, the researchers showed that from 42 percent to 63 percent of Airbnb stays would not have translated to hotel bookings if Airbnb did not exist.

Instead, those travelers would have stayed with friends or family, booked fewer nights, stayed at non-hotel accommodations or not traveled to the destination at all, according to the study.

Long Island's hotel occupancy rate of 72.2 percent through July led comparable markets like the Jersey Shore and Cape Cod, though it trailed New York City's 85.9 percent, according to a report released last week by STR Inc., a Hendersonville, Tennessee, lodging researcher.

Long Island's average daily rate of $153 trailed Cape Cod's $168, but was far ahead of the Jersey Shore's $119. The average daily rate for New York City was $241.

STR projects that Long Island's occupancy rate, which was 72.6 percent for all of 2017, will increase 1.7 percent in 2018, but will edge ahead only 0.1 percent in 2019.

The average daily rate, which was $151.96 for all of Long Island in 2017, is expected to increase 1.3 percent in 2018 and 1.5 percent the following year.

The average daily rate from May 25 through Sept. 3 this year was $212.75 per room night in Suffolk and $92.54 in Nassau.