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Airbnb says it creates $51m in economic activity a year in Boston

Barbara Bennison, and her cat Max, often host Airbnb guests at their home in Boston.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File

Airbnb, the online room-rental service opposed by the hotel industry, said in a new report that it created $51 million in economic activity in Boston in a year.

The report, which analyzed rentals from July 2013 to June 2014, said nearly 34,000 guests who stayed in the city of Boston using Airbnb paid their hosts $8.8 million. Visitors spent another $26 million on their visits, and the spending and its ripple effects supported 490 jobs, the company said.

Anita Roth, the head of policy research at Airbnb, said the San Francisco-based tech company hoped the numbers would lead to "more informed conversations" with policymakers and members of the public.

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"We are engaged with the government and other stakeholders there," said Roth. "The numbers are really useful."

The report did not calculate its impact on the hotel industry. Roth noted, however, that three in 10 Airbnb users surveyed said they would not have visited Boston or would not have stayed as long if they had to stay in a hotel.

The report also looked at social benefits that it said came from guests staying in homes instead of hotels. Out of 1,076 guests surveyed for the report, 41 percent came from other countries, the report said. Travelers spent over $1 million on rooms and apartments in Charlestown, Dorchester, and Roxbury, neighborhoods that typically don't see many tourists. The most popular neighborhoods were the South End, the Back Bay, the North End, and Jamaica Plain.

Compared to other cities Airbnb has studied, the company's impact on the local economy was small. However, while Airbnb's reports in other cities often included suburbs, its Boston report did not analyze the impact of stays in surrounding communities such as Cambridge, another popular Airbnb destination. Only money spent in Suffolk County was analyzed, the report said.

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Currently, no regulations govern Airbnb in Massachusetts or the city of Boston. Max Poeranc, another public affairs official at Airbnb, said the company was not compelled to write the report by any kind of emerging regulatory threat, but to foster dialogue.

In other cities and countries, however, regulators and the hotel industry have sometimes taken a hard-line approach with the company, which they claim allows people to rent their homes illegally by skirting taxes and regulations. Earlier this year, New York's attorney general forced the company to surrender rental data which allegedly showed three-quarters of the company's rentals to be illegal.

Airbnb: How Boston stacks up
At $51 million, the city of Boston is on the low end of economic impacts the rental site has calculated.
Montreal
$47,000,000
Boston
$51,000,000
San Francisco
$56,000,000
Portland, Ore.
$61,000,000
Berlin
$120,000,000
Sydney
$174,000,000
Barcelona
$175,000,000
Paris
$240,000,000
Los Angeles
$312,000,000
New York
$632,000,000
Entire UK
$874,000,000
DATA: Airbnb reports
Jack Newsham/Globe Correspondent

Previous coverage:

Many hasten to turn their bedrooms into inns via Airbnb

The high price of a visit to Boston

Sleeping in unusual Airbnbs across the US


Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.