Winnebago County residents are among those across the country embracing sharing their homes through Airbnb, the hospitality company says about 5,500 guests stayed in the county last year.
One of those hosts inviting people in is Paul Sletten.
“We put some love into it, we remodeled it,” said Sletten. “We did some renovating and we put in up in April.”
Since then, Sletten says his Airbnb is booked 90 percent of the time. His listing is directly above one of his restaurants, Abreo.
“We have business travelers, we have stay-cationers,” said Sletten. “People that are just getting away, having dinner at Abreo.”
The Rockford Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau says festivals and sports tournaments can also draw large crowds, adding it works closely with Airbnb hosts to make sure visitors are welcomed.
“We have a lot of visitors coming here to stay with us,” said said RACVB Associate director of marketing and communications Andrea Cook. “It’s perfect that [Airbnbs are] able to accommodate the overflow of visitors we are getting to come to the region, if hotels are filled up.”
Airbnb says the City of Rockford does generate revenue through the 5% Rockford Hotel-Motel tax with it’s listings.
“It’s also a great way to generate the income back into our local economy,” said Cook. “The hosts of the Airbnbs are then also supported and it does help out local businesses.”
Sletten says he and other downtown business owners see it first hand.
“It generates foot traffic for our businesses. People stay here, they know they can come down to our restaurants.”
Airbnb says Winnebago County hosts earned a combined $676,000 from listings in 2018. Sletten says while the money does help, for him, it’s about offering an experience.
“You really do get that apartment, loft feel for however many nights you want,” said Sletten. “It’s a really neat way to experience a city.”
Airbnb says there are now over 8,000 Illinois residents sharing their homes as listings. In Winnebago County, hosts typically earn about $5,000 annually by offering their spaces.