Rental owners made $2.4 million in Wor. in 2019 to pass $1.5 million in 2018

(Jan. 31, 2020) Airbnb hosts in Worcester County made nearly twice the amount of money in 2019 than in 2018, according to the online rental platform’s figures.

In 2018, Worcester County hosts brought in $1.5 million with 10,800 guests, according to Airbnb. In 2019, Worcester County hosts brought in $2.4 million with 15,300 guests. 

Of that number, Ocean City brought in approximately $100,000 with 520 guests. 

SJ

Susan Jones

Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, said that this proves the rising popularity of Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms. 

“It really goes to show how easy the platforms are to use,” Jones said. “From a visitor standpoint, it’s very easy to navigate short-term rental websites and to see a variety of properties all in one click.” 

With the increased competition, Jones said the hotels will focus on offering different amenities from a short-term rental. 

“It’s our job to continue to sell the benefits of being in a hotel and having comfortable bedding and reliable Wi-Fi, the human interaction with the front desk clerk, being able to use the concierge, all the amenities of a hotel such as the pool and proximity — ones that are right on the Boardwalk,” Jones said. “I’d also say the safety of staying in a hotel.” 

A new factor is the rental license program for unincorporated Worcester County that was effective Jan. 1. Officially passed in August 2019 by the Worcester County Commissioners, the program requires all rentals to have a license and pay a yearly renewal fee. Short-term rentals must pay $200 annually. 

Ocean City already has its own rental license program. 

One of the goals with creating the program for unincorporated Worcester County was to create a better system for complaints against short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods and for rental inspections, if needed. Another goal was to ensure that short-term rentals pay the hotel room tax, which increased from 4.5 to five percent effective Jan. 1. 

Short-term rentals also now have new regulations, which were passed in October 2019. The most notable are that newly constructed rentals must provide an extra parking space, persons per bedroom is based on 50 square feet per person and the rental cannot be used for a function by non-renters. 

“I don’t think it’s going to deter anybody from actually renting out their condo or their house,” Jones said. “I just think it’s a way for the county to be able to collect some revenue, but I don’t think it’s going to alter people’s behavior in terms of using the short-term rental platforms.” 

The hotel industry has also been working to fill the 1,000 new rooms that have been added within the last few years. Jones said the association has been in close contact with Ocean City’s tourism office to spread the same marketing message.

“We have worked with them to do the fireworks on Thursday nights to try to make Thursday the new Friday, to extend the length of the weekend stay because weekend stays are definitely popular, but how can we get one more night out of them?” Jones said. 

Last week, the Ocean City Council passed 13 beach firework shows on Thursdays from June 18 to Aug. 27, plus Labor Day on Sept. 7. 

The most important aspect of Airbnb popularity for Jones is to make sure they’re paying the same dues as hotels and motels. 

“In general, they need to play by the same rules and pay the same sales and room tax that we do,” Jones said.

Elizabeth covers Worcester County issues for Ocean City Today. In 2018, she graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa with a bachelor of arts. After graduation, Elizabeth spent a year with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Wilmington, Delaware.

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