Travel trend Airbnb making an impact in west Georgia and East Alabama

Travel trend Airbnb making an impact in west Georgia and East Alabama
(Source: WTVM)
(Source: WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM/WXTX) - A new trend in lodging could put cash in your pocket!

Several tourism bureaus and cities are watching a travel trend that's changing the way people vacation. More are choosing to not book hotels and are looking for a cheaper, more personable experience.

Air Bed and Breakfast, also known as Airbnb, allows users to post their homes, apartments, or rooms for rent for a mini vacation. It's catching some interest in smaller cities like Auburn and even Columbus.

Going on vacation is meant to be a time of rest and relaxation, and a new trend sweeping the nation is giving folks more options. Airbnb is supposed to make the process of choosing a home away from home a little easier - if only for one night.

It's a website for people to list, find, and rent housing for a short term bed and breakfast stay in a city.

"It's about convenience of the location. They also think it's very clean. They feel like they are at home" said Airbnb host Gokhan Ozden.

Ozden and his wife have been Airbnb hosts since September 2015 and wanted to use their spare room in their two-bedroom apartment.

"I think that is reasonable for most of the people. They are mostly looking for a place to crash. Sometimes just to rest. They are looking for convenience to walking distance," said Ozden.

The room in Auburn is listed on the site for just $40 a night.

"We try to become a really good host," said Ozden.

What makes their spot a good pick? It's a 10-minute walk from Jordan Hare stadium and all the hustle and bustle of Auburn University. Coming into the Ozden's apartment, the first thing you'll need to do is take off your shoes because of their Muslim practices.

You'll then be given a key to the apartment for full access among other amenities provided.

"The private bedroom and bathroom. They get fresh towels and shampoo, those kinds of things, and then we offer them coffee if we want. We used to offer them breakfast but it became too much work for us because we are both working. We offer free WiFi and then there is free parking here," said Ozden.

Of course the Ozden's enjoy the extra income from Airbnb but say it's really not about the money for them, they've only made about $600 from advertising through the site.

Ozden says he loves being an Airbnb host and meeting new people.

"Sometimes they tell a story that could change something in your life. So I really like that. Another thing I like you can give a lot of local information. You can say go to this restaurant or go to this place or there's an event going on there. So that kind of thing you may not get in a hotel," said Ozden.

From the $40 a night charge, Ozden pockets about $37 after Airbnb takes their fees from guests.

"They pay through the Airbnb system. Airbnb gets the money from you and after you stay the first night it charges and then they release the money to the hosts," said Ozden.

Thousands of visitors flock to Auburn every year for various events, including watching the Auburn Tigers play football.

So it's not a surprise hotels and motels in the city would book up in a quick minute leaving visitors looking for an alternative place to stay. But the city receives money from hotel and motel taxes, closing in on almost $40 million in revenue last year in Auburn-Opelika.

As of recently, the state of Alabama entered into an agreement to receive some income from Airbnb.

"They stepped out as one of the first online avenues to collect all the taxes for anyone who uses their system and remit them back through the state and different municipalities. So big, big change," said John Wild, President and CEO Auburn and Opelika Tourism Bureau.

Airbnb hasn't made a big impact in the city yet, but as it continues to grow, the tourism bureau is hoping to partner with the site.

"A mechanism through Airbnb that would say here's the number of places that are available in your area, can you help market them," said Wild.

Auburn has 60 or so listings. Back in the Fountain City, Columbus is barely making a dent with Airbnb with about a dozen listings on the site. With the convention and visitors bureau promoting their 48 hotels and 4,700 rooms in the city, they're now keeping a close eye on this travel trend.

"There will be competition for our hotels, we want to make sure they are playing by the same rules and paying the same fees, they have to go through the same inspection. That way everyone has the opportunity to win in this case," said Peter Bowden, President and CEO at the Convention and Visitor Bureau.

Airbnb creates a personal experience and people are choosing to go this route because of price, location or convenience, but Airbnb can take away funds for places that rely on those additional tax dollars like the Rivercenter, Trade Center and the Sports Complex.

"I believe it will catch on eventually and one of the reasons why we are looking at it is we want to make sure our visitors have a good experience," said Bowden.

The Ozden's say while they host guests once a month and sometimes weekly, they aren't pursuing Airbnb as a full time business, just yet.

Hosts of Airbnb has the right to decide who rents their place. Pricing is also set by the hosts and they can charge different prices for nightly, weekly, and monthly stays.

And join the conversation on social media with by using #Rooms4Rent.

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