In addition to tourists, local Airbnb rentals can also cater to the temporarily homeless. Kadidia Cooper of Fresno has rented rooms to people facing that challenge.

published on July 10, 2019 - 12:50 PM
Written by Donald A. Promnitz

Fresno resident Kadidia Cooper has seen a lot of traffic in her home over the last three months, almost enough to make hospitality into a side business.

ValleyPBS CFO Cooper turned her home into an Airbnb in March, using the money from the short-term rentals to help pay her mortgage. She said at least one of the several available rooms is occupied almost every night. According to her, the visitors are mostly staying one night, typically to visit Yosemite or Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, or are passing through while visiting the rest of the state.

Cooper said a large portion of her visitors are from out of the country — especially from Eastern and Central Europe. In addition to lower costs, she said it allows for a greater experience of the country.

“Just talking to them about what their impression of American life is — I think that’s why they prefer to stay in Airbnbs,” Cooper said. “Because they don’t just want to get the tourist view. They want to know how the people actually live and what the people actually think.”

Over the course of a decade, Airbnb has truly disrupted the hospitality industry, turning ordinary homeowners into part-time hoteliers. It’s caught on in the Central Valley — last month, the Fresno Airbnb host community is estimated to have earned $46,000 from 740 guest arrivals for the weekend of May 17-18, when students were graduating from Fresno State. This makes it the period with the second-largest number of guests to the city.

Other guests aren’t vacationing at all. With the average rental price per night coming in at $43.54 in Fresno vs. the average price of $27.42 for a night in an Airbnb, there’s a saving potential of 37% for many, according to travel comparison site Cooper herself has had several homeless guests stay at her home for a few nights. These people, she said, often lost their apartments to circumstances and couldn’t come up with first and last deposits.

Demea Metcalf, executive director for Visit Visalia, and Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of Visit Yosemite/Madera County, also say the implementation of Airbnb has had a sizeable impact on homeowners in their communities.

A search query for Oakhurst will yield more than 300 places to stay. According to Salisbury, the increase of vacation rental services in Madera County has not been a hindrance to the hotel industry, but has instead simply meant more convenience for people coming to visit places like Yosemite and Bass Lake, further bolstering the local economy. However, she said the vacation rentals aren’t completely without their drawbacks.

She cautioned that residents will sometimes deal with noisy renters, and demand can make accommodations difficult for temporary employees in the summer. The rentals, she said, mean that they will often have no room for workers to stay.

“We have to find places for these people to live,” she said. “This is a phenomenon everywhere there’s tourism, that it’s now hard to find employees because you can’t find employee housing.”

In the case of Tulare County, Metcalf said that a search on the service’s website will reveal 40 to 70 places that are on Airbnb at any one time when “Visalia” is typed in the search query (homes in other towns like Porterville are also included in this search). Their largest concentration, however, is in Three Rivers, which goes into the hundreds. Rather than serve as a threat to the hotel industry, Metcalf adds that they fill a special niche expected from some tourists. The result is greater satisfaction for a larger number of visitors.

“It’s completely [up to] the taste of the traveler,” Metcalf said. “And honestly, there’s a client for every type of hotel, and there’s a client that wants to camp only, and having options here in Visalia is a win-win situation, so we can still attract more people to the area — if that’s their preferred place to stay.”

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