There’s still air in Airbnb | Letter

As people are reporting the tourist onslaught has begun on Orcas. Tourists that are coming here now are thoughtlessly exposing locals to the virus. Where are these people staying? They can’t all be “essential” workers. In spite of the downturn in vacation rentals, they are still active and Airbnb still offers listings on Orcas leaving it up to the owner to meet local regulations. Many local owners are responsible owners and are following the rules. However, as we know, the majority of vacation rental owners in San Juan County live outside the county. In a recent article about Airbnb in Wired online magazine James Temperton cites the fact that “…of the 1.1 million Airbnb listings in the US, some 600,000 are from hosts that have at least two other listings.” Further that Airbnb “…isn’t a holiday rental company, it’s a hotel chain.” And it’s the world’s biggest. ( Absentee owners don’t live here and are not part of the community. Income generated here goes elsewhere. It’s a business. The more off islanders come here without self-isolation for two weeks the more we are open to a more serious second wave of the virus as happened with the Spanish Flu. Temperton describes the serious financial problems facing Airbnb due to the virus but I don’t think they are going away. There’s just too much money to be made.

Greg Oaksen