You can’t live here or visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks without noticing the effect that Airbnb is having on Three Rivers. In 2014, there were a handful of local properties listed with the San Francisco-based hospitality service. Today, the latest estimate is that there are more than 250 active vacation rentals in Three Rivers and the immediate vicinity.
Airbnb guests are fueling a huge spike in local business, especially restaurants, stores, gas stations. In other words, if the trickle down dollars, receipts from area hotels, and real estate sales are all added in the equation, the entire Three Rivers economy is under the influence.
The accommodations company Airbnb (short for Air Bed&Breakfast) was founded in 2008. In 2017, now a global giant, Airbnb reported $2.6 billion in revenue with more than 100,000 properties listed worldwide. Of course, the company’s explosion has not been without its share of controversy. Three Rivers is no exception.
Tulare County’s RMA planners are currently grappling with its own version of the Airbnb movement and how it should be taxed (currently at 10 percent per night) and regulated. An update will be presented at the town meeting scheduled for Wednesday, July 24 at 6 p.m. at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.
Like so many locals in Three Rivers, Sarah and I have been witness up close to this Airbnb phenomenon. In the past 18 months, seven properties within one-quarter mile of our house on North Fork Drive are now listed with Airbnb or another of the vacation rental companies.
Five of these are detached whole houses for rent; at least two others contain rooms within a larger home. The medium-to-larger houses that cater to up to 12 guests tend to attract family gatherings; the smaller spaces and shared rooms can accommodate one or two people, mostly tourists here specifically to visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
The smaller properties often have an owner living on site; the larger houses have a property manager and are often owned in absentia. Airbnb handles all the rental bookings and accommodations revenue, but owns none of the hundreds of thousands of properties listed worldwide.
Airbnb requires vetted profiles for both hosts and members who book rentals. It also owns and maintains its own communications network for texts and emails between host and guests.
Like all new technology, where all this ultimately may go who really knows? Herein lies the seeds of controversy, the biggest of which is changing the make-up of a neighborhood or a town.
Next: Who are these Airbnb guests and what do they want?