UK's Airbnb hosts make £657m by renting out homes

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Airbnb hosts in the UK pocketed £657 million in the year to July as the number of inbound guests using the home-sharing platform surged 81%.

A report by the US-based company showed that UK hosts welcomed around 5.9 million guests from outside the UK between July 2016 and July 2017, helping the typical host earn around £3,000 per year.

But a growing number of guests are from within the country, thanks to the rising popularity of so-called staycations after the pound's collapse, which has made foreign trips more expensive for UK travellers. 

Airbnb said 53% of its UK customers travelled domestically in the year to July, taking advantage of 168,000 listings across the country.

Around 76% of hosts are renting out their primary home, with the average age around 43. Women made up about 62% of UK hosts.

About 55% of hosts rent out their entire homes, while 44% offer a private room and 1% list a shared room for visitors, suggesting hosts may be looking to make use of a spare room "without committing to a full-time lodger".

Airbnb said the site is an "easy and flexible source of income" for UK homeowners, but the report also found that around 4% are using the site to avoid eviction or foreclosure on their home.

Critics point to the negative effects the short-term rental company has had on some neighbourhoods, driving up house prices and exacerbating housing crunches in major cities like London, Paris, New York and Vancouver as landlords opt for more lucrative Airbnb lettings over long-term tenants.

It has even caused authorities to consider new regulations, including London which now has a 90-day annual limit for short-term lettings, with extensions requiring special permits.

Airbnb has tried to shift focus to the economic benefits of the platform. The company said spending in local communities by Airbnb guests has contributed £3.46 billion to the UK economy in the year to July. 

It found that the average Airbnb guest spends about £147 in the UK each day of their stay, with 43% in the local neighbourhood on the likes of groceries, shopping, food and transport. 

The report also highlighted regional success stories including Scotland, where hosts earned £86 million over the past year, and Yorkshire and the Humber with £14 million, as tourists contributed £85 million to the economy. 

Hosts in the East Midlands earned £8 million, and the figure in Wales was £19 million. 

James McClure, Airbnb's general manager for northern Europe, said: "The UK continues to break records on Airbnb - both as a world-leading destination, and for the benefits that hosting generates for local families and their communities.

"Hosts are ambassadors for their neighbourhoods and we look forward to seeing guests discover more unique, diverse and welcoming communities across the UK."