PEI

Private vacation rental revenues on P.E.I. grow 65-fold, Statistics Canada estimates

In course of three years private vacation rentals, such as Airbnb and VRBO, have grown from a largely insignificant piece of the P.E.I. economy to a major force, according to a new report from Statistics Canada.

P.E.I. records 2nd-highest growth among the provinces

According to the website airdna.co, which tracks listings on Airbnb, there were 442 active Airbnb rentals listed in Charlottetown as of Oct. 30, 2018. (AirDNA.co)

Over the last three years private vacation rentals such as Airbnb and VRBO have grown from a largely insignificant piece of the P.E.I. economy to a major force, according to a new report from Statistics Canada.

Private vacation rentals booked through a third-party digital platform were worth $451,000 in 2015, according to the report. That grew to $29.8 million in 2018.

That's a 6,500 per cent increase. The province reported the tourism industry was worth $490 million in 2018. This new report gives these vacation rentals a six per cent share of that.

Lindsey Scully, who works in communications for Airbnb, says the company disputes the StatsCan figures.

"Tens of thousands of Canadians are embracing home sharing as a way to earn extra money and pay the bills and while we appreciate the interest in studying our community across the country, this report is based on inaccurate, scraped data provided by third-parties."  

Airbnb says hosts on P.E.I. earned $11 million in 2018. 

According to StatsCan, among the provinces, P.E.I. was behind only Newfoundland and Labrador in growth in the sector. Growth has been high across the country, but P.E.I. was far ahead of the Canadian average of 941 per cent.

Revenue for Island operators was higher than in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Statistics Canada reported that nationally, seven per cent of the revenue went to the digital platforms where the booking was made.

Short-term rentals have been implicated in a housing shortage in Charlottetown. In 2018 the vacancy rate for monthly rentals in the province hit record lows.

According to the website airdna.co, which tracks listings on Airbnb, there were 442 active Airbnb rentals listed in Charlottetown as of Oct. 30, 2018. Last week Airbnb declined to provide information on the number of P.E.I. properties it lists on its website.

This is the first report of its kind from Statistics Canada. Unlike with its other industry reports, it could not rely on directing reporting from operators.

Instead the agency used web scraping — scanning information available on web sites both manually and with automated software — to develop estimates of economic activity.

Given the methodology, Statistics Canada says it cannot provide estimates of how accurate the information is, but said it does provide insight into the size and growth of private rental accommodation over the last few years.

In an email statement, Airbnb says it understands the interest in its data and is working to provide aggregated data to policymakers, the media and the public while continuing to protect the privacy and personal information of our community.

It says automated data scrapers use only limited information available on specific Airbnb pages, and to fill in the gaps, third party analysts typically make a number of flawed assumptions. Airbnb says those assumptions lead to "unreliable conclusions that don't capture the complexity and nuance of the Airbnb community."

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