Ashton Hayward: Residents, tourists alike can benefit from sharing economy - Florida Politics

Ashton Hayward: Residents, tourists alike can benefit from sharing economy

Travel and tourism have long served as the backbone of Florida’s economy, which is now the 18th largest in the world. Here in Pensacola, we’re proud that our city has emerged as a driving force of this growth industry.

In just the past year, the Pensacola region welcomed 2.7 million visitors who have invested $787 million in our community, according to Visit Pensacola.

For both our community, and our state, a major priority is to not only maintain the current levels of tourism we enjoy, but to attract even more visitors. One key step we can take is to embrace the sharing economy: empowering middle-class residents in Pensacola and elsewhere to provide transportation options through Uber or Lyft or alternative lodging through Airbnb, HomeAway or Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO).

By leveraging these exciting new opportunities, which travelers and Florida residents alike clearly love and want, we can make our state an even more appealing destination for both tourism and investment.

In Pensacola, I’ve focused on making our city as welcoming as possible to residents who wish to share their homes as short-term rentals. With Airbnb alone, over 300 people in our community share their homes with travelers. In the past year, these local residents welcomed over 25,000 guests and earned $3 million in the process. In turn, these guests spend money at our local restaurants, shops and attractions.

I’ve personally met with many of these short-term rental hosts and am delighted at how they serve as ambassadors for their neighborhoods and city. They make a point to guide guests toward the attractions that make our community so unique — whether it’s our downtown that was just named the “greatest place in Florida“, the Naval Air Museum, our 93 local parks, or simply the hole-in-the-wall cafe that you wouldn’t find in the tourist brochures. The Pensacola News Journal recently featured an Airbnb host named Channell who took a previously vacant downtown building and turned it into a flourishing short-term rental, which is now economically recharging the neighborhood instead of dragging down housing values.

These vacation rentals appear to be complementing our wonderful hotels by widening the reach of our city to new visitors. That could mean expanding lodging capacity during popular events that fill hotels to capacity, such as the Blue Angels shows. But it also means our city is appealing to millennials looking for authentic experiences, families who want to cook together and stay under one roof when traveling, and visitors on modest budgets.

I believe the benefits Pensacola is enjoying by embracing the sharing economy can be reaped by other cities and counties. I want to encourage more residents — and more communities around the state — to follow the lead set by Channell. By thinking creatively, we can turn vacant and dilapidated properties into economic engines for our neighborhoods.

I also urge my fellow mayors across the state to consider looking for ways to work with the short-term rental industry, because it ultimately helps bring visitors to our diverse and beautiful communities, infusing cash into the economy and creating jobs for Floridians.

There are a handful of Florida cities that have chosen to crack down on short-term rentals and penalize taxpaying homeowners. I fear this will have a chilling effect on tourism, and I know it has already alarmed many residents in my community. I am committed to working with all of Pensacola’s residents — those who choose to share their homes and those who don’t — to spur innovation and grow our local economy while avoiding overregulation.

By embracing technological advances and the evolving preferences of travelers, we can boost our local and state economies and ensure that the world knows both Pensacola and Florida are open for business and are terrific places to visit.

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Ashton Hayward is mayor of Pensacola.

3 Comments

  1. Here is the other side of the short-term rentals:

    “The Captain Hook : 11 bedrooms – sleeps 24; great for big groups. And, from a HomeAway Review of this house: “We used this property for a sales meeting.”

    You should know that 81% of Airbnb’s profits are from entire home rentals, owned by investors without any stake in Florida except to make money (check the Chicago Tribune story for verification at http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-airbnb-hotel-report-0310-biz-20170309-story.html ). Legislators should be listening to their constituents who live in communities that are zoned single-family. They thought they were moving into a COMMUNITY, not a rotating group of dozens of strangers on a weekly basis.

    No one is opposed to the sharing economy, but communities zoned single-family should be just that. People who move to Florida are looking for COMMUNITY. When Florida residents start moving out because homes that rent to a few dozen people at a time are built and are used for business purposes (as has happened in Anna Maria Island, where 20% of full-time residents left), see what happens to the hospitals, schools, hairdressers, dentists, small shops and restaurants that rely on fulltime residents . Volunteers are residents, NOT short-term renters. Transients come in, spend a little money, and leave. They are not INVESTED in the community in the ways that matter.
    Those legislators who aren’t listening and want “equal treatment” for any property are short-sighted and will have many unhappy constituents – and communities will dwindle.

    Don’t believe Airbnb’s Mom and Pop stories – that is the only story told – and told by you as well, mayor. Where have you addressed the investor-built mini-hotels that have destroyed communities? You haven’t. Shame on you with your one-sided approach. No one is opposed to a room or two rented out by an owner who is in the house. But, mini-hotels? That is the more common iteration of short-term rentals these days. Don’t be fooled.

  2. I am a resident of escambia county florida. I have been homeless for many of years due to disability. I am not one who wish or prey on the community to support my degress. I have supported my local politicians but as of now i feel anything is promised to our community to just get re-elected. Not truly seeking a resolution as to how we can change our city and support our homeless VICTIMS and our local VETERANS. I have qualified for housing but have been told there are two types of disability, however the government states that the definition of disability defines the same for any person who can’t perform the basic movements and work abilities as one whom has not considered himself/ herself disabled other than by record of medical physicians. I trust as our local HERO and common denominator for keeping our city safe and fair and concerning for everyone who genuinely needs assistance, oppose to those who are just politicians and concerned for their family only… We the city of pensacola are suppose to be one family. We are supposed to be able to trust that we stand together and believe in our system and our MAYOR and Hero/ Friend. Mayor ASHTON HAYWARD.

  3. According to Mayor Haywood, “Travel and tourism have long served as the backbone of Florida’s economy.” I beg to differ. As a proud 11-year Florida resident, the RESIDENTS are the backbone of the Florida economy. Here is proof:

    According to the state of Florida’s own research, http://edr.state.fl.us/Content/economy/FloridaSalesTaxContributions2017.pdf
    Florida residents contributed 65% to the general revenue from sales tax, while tourists contributed only 13%.

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