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Monroe County makes millions with rentals

Posted Feb 4, 2020 at 6:46 PM

With hosts raking in nearly $19 million in revenue over the course of 2019, the Poconos have become an absolute hot-spot for Airbnb rentals.According to the short-term rental company, Monroe County hosts welcomed 156,200 guests to their properties over the past year, netting them $18.9 million after taxes and fees and establishing the area as Airbnb’s third most-profitable county in the commonwealth.Only Philadelphia, which took $66.8 million, and Allegheny, which earned $20.2 million, surpassed Monroe in total 2019 host income.Liz DeBold Fusco, public policy and communications with Airbnb, said that the success of short-term rentals in the county lies in the fact that the area has plenty to offer year-round.

“You are right in the middle of the Pocono Mountains, so you are able to really benefit from various types of travel trends,” Fusco said. “Obviously, there’s ski season, which is a big tourist time, but also you have fall foliage. You can benefit from summer tourism, people who want to escape to somewhere might be a little bit cooler but still majestic, to spend a long weekend with family. Monroe really captures what drives tourists to Pennsylvania overall.”Chris Barrett, president and CEO of the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau, said that the monumental moneymaking opportunities for Monroe hosts can also be attributed to the massive numbers of tourists who frequent the region. While there are plenty of resorts and hotels to accommodate plenty of guests, increased traffic creates a sizable demand for places to stay.“To me, it wasn’t really surprising, because when you look at the number of folks that the state projects visit the Pocono Mountains at over 30 million a year, that’s a fairly large number,” Barrett said.

“Compared to other destinations, we don’t have as many brick- and-mortar properties, which is what we would characterize as being a Hampton, a Fairfield, a Marriott, a Kalahari, a Camelback. We don’t have as many of those properties for the amount of people who are visiting.”In late January, the Airbnb announced that over the course of the five biggest weekends in 2019, Pennsylvania hosts were able to earn $33.7 million while accommodating 176,200 guests. The weekend of Aug. 16-18, which coincided with IndyCar race weekend at Pocono Raceway, netted hosts in the commonwealth $7.6 million.Naturally, that influx results in plenty of bookings that previously could have left tourists out in the cold. But with the advent of short-term rentals, guests have a variety of options to choose from.

“These are weekends where hotels are filling up,” Fusco said. “Even though you might have a lot of hotels in the area, they might be really close to peak capacity, and therefore short-term rentals are opening up as alternative accommodations that can help provide additional supplies to meet that demand.”And that demand creates a lucrative opportunity for local residents to supplement their income.East Stroudburg’s Aga Matuszewska, who runs the wedding photography studio Storytellers & Co. with her partner Marcin Czech, said that she jumped into hosting after a fellow photographer got into the business and found that he absolutely loved the short-term rental market.“We live here in Monroe as well, and we started looking for a property, possibly to move in or to do short-term rentals,” Matuszewska said. “We found one and figured that this was a property that we wanted for ourselves, but you want to make money before you retire, so that’s how we came up with short-term rentals.”Matuszewska said that the pair’s 2019 income from renting out their secluded Cresco cabin was “amazing,” likely due to fact that the Pocono Mountains are a huge draw for urban dwellers eager to get away and enjoy the environment.“This area is outdoor heaven, and it’s not too far from Philly and not too far from New York, which is where the majority of our guests come from,” Matuszewska said. “We attract a lot of outdoorsy folks who want to come to the mountains and enjoy nature.”That revenue explosion isn’t limited to hosts alone. Airbnb notes that 92% of hosts recommend restaurants and cafes to guests, 56% of hosts recommend cultural activities including museums, festivals and historic sites, and that on average, guests say about 41% of their spending is relegated to the neighborhood where they stay.

“There are untold millions of dollars in economic opportunities created by guests spending their money at small businesses,” Fusco said.On top of that, since Airbnb began collecting and remitting tourist-related taxes to local governments in 2019, many institutions that rely on public funding – such as the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau – are seeing benefits as well.“We’ve seen a large uptick in hotel tax revenues, and that really helps us to market the region,” Barrett said. “We take those dollars and reinvest them in marketing the region so we can drive more people to visit us.”Barrett said that he believes the wave of success from short-term rentals will continue on into the future, much like the continued success that local hotels and resorts have seen over the past few years.“We’ve always had a built-in, strong winter product,” Barrett said. “From there, we’ve seen all of our other seasons grow with the types of attractions that we have located here over the past 10 years. Some of them are totally insulated from weather. If you like to be outside, obviously, we have some of the most visited areas in the state, for instance, the trails and the mountains. Those outside experiences can be enjoyed any time.”Through tourists staying at short-term rentals, the potential for growth in Monroe County via Airbnb over the coming years appears limitless.And thanks to the timeless appeal of the Poconos, Monroe County Airbnb hosts will almost certainly continue to reap the rewards the local tourism economy has to offer, benefiting not only themselves but local businesses, governments and citizens as a whole.



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