The expected growth in the vacation rental property market in Bermuda could bring many more spin-off benefits, even for those who are not renting out accommodation.
Examples were described at an information session, one of four this week, presented by the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Airbnb.
Meanwhile, the BTA is looking to invite other vacation rental platform companies to the island as it explores ways of expanding the market.
At present there are about 300 vacation rental properties in Bermuda, and the average annual income generated for a rental property owner is $15,000.
Growing the sector is the aim of the BTA, which sees the potential for to boost visitor spending and experience, and nurture an environment for job creation.
At one of the sessions in Hamilton, Carlos Muñoz, who deals with public policy and government affairs for Airbnb in the Latin America and Caribbean, described the platform as a way of helping “the little man” to participate and benefit from the tourism industry.
He said it was a way for holidaymakers to experience a destination beyond staying at a regular vacation resort.
And he mentioned Airbnb’s Experiences, which is a programme where people can promote and sell a unique vacation experience — which might be a tour of a little known part of a community, a hike, or meeting interesting professionals.
One example is available in Cuba where visitors can spend a day with an Olympic athlete, seeing how they train, what they eat and talking to them. Another is in South Africa, with a personal walking tour of the prison where Nelson Mandela was held.
Airbnb Experiences could be offered in Bermuda in the future.
Regarding the feedback from the information sessions, held from Monday to yesterday across the island and attracting current and potential vacation property owners, Mr Muñoz said they had been positive and well-received.
“There is an interest from the BTA to promote this type of vacation property. My job is engaging the stakeholders,” he added.
He spoke of the island’s tradition of inviting guests into their homes, and how Airbnb was bringing a platform and technology to re-energise that tradition.
And he sees many reasons why Bermuda could do well by boosting its vacation rental sector, not least the outgoing friendliness of the island’s people.
“Bermuda is one of my favourite places. Just walking to the grocery store this morning, in the space of two blocks, nine people said ‘good morning’ to me,” he said.
“The island is impeccably kept. People are proud of the island, and this platform allows for people to share their customs and history. I love the people. It’s the people that make the difference.”
This week, the BTA revealed there are 3,381 residences categorised as vacant and habitable in Bermuda, a figure that shows the potential for vacation rental opportunity expansion.
Mr Muñoz said: “The sky is the limit. Certainly the main goal for us is to get word out to Bermudians. There’s a huge potential for growth.”
At the information sessions Mr Muñoz and Josh Zulli, Airbnb’s Caribbean market manager, have been sharing information and tips and answering questions. A primary hope for them is to see the creation of a community of Airbnb vacation rental property owners on the island who will hold their own meetings and drive forward developments.
Mr Zulli said: “It was good to see the community come out and express themselves. We want to set up a community, because the community best knows what they need.
“It has been a great experience. The big outcome of this trip was meeting with people and opening a dialogue.”
An estimated 200 people attended the sessions, which were held in St George, Somerset and Hamilton. The sessions were part of a memorandum of understanding between the BTA and Airbnb, designed to build on the island’s hospitality, grow the number of vacation rentals and attract more Bermudians into the tourism economy.
Kevin Dallas, CEO of the BTA, attended the sessions. He said: “People have shown real enthusiasm and asked many questions. The turnout has been better than expected.
“Josh has been very keen to meet hosts and hear their questions or problems. Carlos is from the policy department and works to make the regulatory environment more welcoming.”
Mr Dallas said the BTA was speaking with other rental platforms and looking to also bring them to the island.