The number of guests staying in Maine lodging rented through Airbnb has tripled in the past four years, according to new statistics provided by the tech company.

Almost 542,000 people stayed overnight in Maine homes and apartments booked through Airbnb’s online platform in 2019, it said in a statement. Airbnb hosts earned about $91 million last year in Maine, an all-time high.

Last year “was another great year for Airbnb in Maine, with more local residents embracing the economic opportunities offered by home-sharing – and small businesses and entire communities benefiting as a result,” Josh Meltzer, head of public policy for Airbnb in the Northeast, said in a statement.

Airbnb allows hosts to rent rooms or their entire home to guests for short periods, usually a few nights. The company and similar services such as Vrbo have become a popular alternative to hotels and inns for tourists. Airbnb contends its service allows guests to connect more authentically with neighborhoods while providing extra revenue to hosts and local businesses.

But the company and other short-term rental services have been criticized in Maine and elsewhere for contributing to an affordable housing shortage, creating noise and disturbance, and altering neighborhood character. Maine communities including Portland and South Portland have enacted rules that limit the number of short-term rentals and require registration and safety inspections for hosts and their properties.

Added regulations do not appear to have slowed Airbnb’s growth in Maine. The number of guests and host earnings have more than tripled since 2016, according to Airbnb records.

“As we reflect on this past year and celebrate the beginning of a new one, we are proud to have played a small role in countless memories and cultural exchanges across Vacationland – from summer trips to leaf peeping to the holiday season,” Meltzer said. “We look forward to continuing to help families across Maine earn extra income while allowing countless communities to enjoy the tourism economy in 2019.”

Five weekends in late July and mid-August accounted for more than $31 million in host earnings – roughly a third of annual revenue – and 113,800 guests, according to Airbnb. Cumberland County had the largest number of guests – 191,000 – in the state, followed by York and Hancock counties.

Airbnb charges hosts a 3 percent fee to use the service, and up to 13 percent for guest bookings. The company agreed three years ago to automatically charge guests the state’s 9 percent lodging tax when they book a lodging via the service.

While a growing segment of Maine’s lodging industry, short-term rentals such as those booked through Airbnb accounted than 10 percent of the $904 million spent on hotels, inns and other accommodation between January and August of 2019, according to Maine tax records.

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