Letter: Lenox sharing economy can work for all
To the editor:
Regarding the Jan. 7 article "Lawyer representing eight Lenox innkeepers pushes town to crack down on short-term rentals," 73 percent of Airbnb hosts in Lenox are women and 41 percent are senior citizens, with the typical host earning $8,300 last year to help pay the rent or mortgage, tackle student loans or age in place in a home they love. These hosts are our neighbors and friends, our public servants and shopkeepers, and part of the fabric of our community.
By opening their doors to guests, hosts are helping to fuel the local economy. In 2018, Berkshire County welcomed 61,700 guests, with local hosts earning $9.8 million. But the economic impact goes far beyond host earnings, with 95 percent of our hosts recommending their favorite shops and restaurants to their guests. That impact is immeasurable, but there is no doubt that it has been widely felt by Lenox's Main Street business owners.
Furthermore, while many Lenox hosts are sharing their own home, Airbnb welcomes traditional accommodations providers to leverage our global community to build their business across the commonwealth. We recently unveiled a suite of tools specifically designed for B&B, inn and boutique hotel operators, including lower fees than other competitors. In fact, in Lenox alone, a number of local inn operators have also turned to Airbnb to grow their business — including Jeffrey Lynch's own clients.
The bottom line is whether you are a host, guest, or a neighbor, we want the sharing economy to work for you. That's why we have implemented a number of innovative safety tools, from running background checks and providing free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to hosts to our $1 million Host Guarantee and Host Protection Insurance programs. We also offer our Neighbor Tool for anyone to share specific concerns they might have about a listing.
As the Zoning Board of Appeals considers Mr. Lynch's complaint, we look forward to working with the community and town officials to ensure that Lenox families, boutique hotel and B&B operators, and local small businesses can continue to access the economic opportunity of this historic industry.
The writer is head of Massachusetts Public Policy, Airbnb.
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