Edmond welcomes Airbnb visitors
One of the best ways for Edmond to thrive is to attract more visitors. That’s easy for a tourism director to say, right? Read a bit further and you will agree. Visitors complete an economic impact circle: supporting local businesses at a street festival, sports tournament, or conference, stay the night, and then return home. Let’s focus on the stay part of this circle.
Tourism is funded by a 4% lodging tax, which up until recently was only collected during a visitor’s stay at one of Edmond’s 15 hotels. With the growth of online vacation home booking sites like Airbnb, we’ve seen an industry-wide shift in the way visitors like to stay. Hotel rooms please travelers who like brand consistency, reward points, and loyalty programs. Other travelers are choosing vacation homes for a homelike experience, full kitchens, a yard for animals, and local flavor. Edmond currently has more than 50 vacation homes listed on Airbnb.
The 4% lodging revenue collected from thousands of visitors each year funds Edmond tourism. Annually, this lodging tax brings in approximately $500,000 to help market Edmond as a destination and support events with grants or scholarships.
Edmond’s Hotel Tax Ordinance pre-dated the birth of Airbnb and other short-term rental travel sites, so these properties were not required to collect a lodging tax from visitors. After extensive research, Visit Edmond and its Tourism Advisory Board decided that including vacation homes in an updated Lodging Tax Ordinance would not only be a new source of revenue to help fund tourism, but it would also level the playing field for both hotels and vacation homes. Edmond City Council approved the Lodging Tax Ordinance on March 22, 2021, and it went into effect on July 1, 2021.
“I believed and voted for charging Airbnb guests lodging tax in Edmond. Our success in the short-term rental business depends on occupancy. I can’t think of a better way to increase and maintain occupancy than partnering with Visit Edmond. Currently, we are seeing high occupancy due to the boom in the housing market. People are selling homes and needing a temporary place while building or house-hunting. That will not always be the case. The housing market will normalize and the demand will wane for short-term rentals for that purpose. At that point, we will be looking for occupancy due to tourism. That is where the real value of the tax and our partnership will be evident,” said David Chapman, city councilman and owner of five Edmond Airbnbs.
Including vacation homes in the city’s lodging tax ordinance means Visit Edmond has more resources to bring more visitors to Edmond. It has also fostered relationships between property owners and Visit Edmond, creating the opportunity to connect and promote vacation homes while also encouraging collaboration on other tourism projects.
“The recent connection with Visit Edmond has increased my awareness of all that we have to offer as a city. As an Airbnb host, it is important to meet our leaders and other hosts in the community. My business thrives when the community around me thrives. My knowledge and awareness of upcoming events, parks and recreation offerings, and local restaurants are huge when inviting people to stay at The Gate House Airbnb,” said Brandy Penland, owner of Gate House Airbnb.
Last month’s Visit Edmond organized our first in-person Edmond Airbnb Meeting. We swapped stories, shared best practices, talked about not underestimating our Airbnb homes, and so much more. We plan to meet quarterly and invite all Edmond vacation homeowners. We are building a “community over competition” mindset and when we do this well, our guests and tourists will see Edmond as a destination and community they want to visit.
Whether for work or for play, tourism has proven to be a significant economic driver in Edmond. Visitors generate sales tax by staying in our lodging facilities, spending money at our restaurants, and shopping in our stores.
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About Jennifer Seaton
Jennifer Seaton has been the Director of Visit Edmond (also known as Edmond Convention & Visitors Bureau) since July 29, 2019. She is a City of Edmond employee and long-time Edmond resident. Jennifer brings extensive marketing and advertising experience from her 25 years working in the Oklahoma City metro. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Business Development for STAPLEGUN, an advertising agency based in Oklahoma City. She previously worked as the Director of Marketing for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and Vice President of Marketing for United Way of Central Oklahoma. She attended Ohio University where she received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Communication. Jennifer's goal is to elevate the “Edmond experience” to attract more leisure travelers, tournaments, and business conferences to Edmond.