February 2018 — Despite Hurricane Irma barreling through the region last fall, a record 88.2 million visitors came to Florida during the first nine months of 2017, a 3.3 percent increase over the same time period in the previous year. More specifically, South Florida welcomed more than 112 million visitors in 2016 and over 60 million visitors by mid-2017. The number of tourists who came to visit in 2016 set another record, surpassing the 106.6 million visitors in 2015 by 5.9 percent.

This pattern of growth is no coincidence. South Florida has been attracting tourists from far and wide with its vibrant cultural offerings as it slowly develops into a globally recognized art capital.

Despite, or perhaps because of, this increasing trend, there is fierce competition in the South Florida hospitality industry. The shared economy — particularly peer-to-peer home exchanges like Airbnb — has been increasingly vying with Miami and Fort Lauderdale hotels to meet visitors’ accommodation needs.

“The presence of Airbnb has been a bigger threat to the hotel market in Miami-Dade than in Greater Fort Lauderdale, but its impact is increasingly making itself felt here,” Bill Cunningham, general manager of Bahia Mar, told Invest:. “Everybody in the hotel industry is still trying to quantify the impact that it is having on hotels, and hoteliers have certainly been surprised by the growth in the number of Airbnb units there are in the county.”

One thing is certain: traditional hotels can no longer ignore the fact that the shared economy is here to stay. Miami-Dade County is one of the top 5 Airbnb destinations in the country, with 6,800 hosts renting their homes to visitors.

The hotel industry realizes that it needs to be flexible about the sharing economy, and that there will be people who prefer traditional accommodation, while others prefer new ways to stay when they travel,” Stacy Ritter, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, told Invest:. “It’s a matter of marketing, messaging, sales and customer targeting for hotels to reach the right customer.”

One of the biggest challenges the hotel industry faces in competing with companies like Airbnb is regulation, where the playing field has not always been level. South Florida officials are working toward finding a balance that will support both the traditional and consumer-to-consumer markets.

“Since May 2017, Airbnb has been paying a resort tax, convention development tax, tourist development tax and sports tax,” William Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, told Invest: “However, while hotels must follow strict operating ordinances, nearby Airbnb rental properties do not. The tax provides a source of revenue for us, and we are currently working with County Commissioner Heyman to develop regulations for peer-to-peer property rentals. Any regulations that the county commission implements will only affect unincorporated areas of the county, as municipalities retain domain over their own regulations for services like Airbnb.”

In October 2017, Miami-Dade County passed new legislation that provides more stringent rules for hosts, improving the vacation rental standards. Under this new legislation, hosts are required to sign up for a certificate of use, register for a business tax receipt and screen for sexual offenders, among other tighter overall standards.

Airbnb and other companies like it offer an experience that is very different from traditional hotels, and consumers appreciate both. The hope is that the two can find a way to coexist, continuing South Florida’s stellar hospitality tradition.

For more information about our interviewees, visit their websites here:

GFLCVB: https://www.sunny.org

Bahia Mar: http://www.bahiamaryachtingcenter.com

GMCVB: http://www.miamiandbeaches.com