Special to the Opelika Observer

Airbnb announced a tax agreement today with the City of Opelika that authorizes the company to collect the the local hotel tax on behalf of its Opelika hosts and remit the revenue directly to the city.

With the tax agreement in place, Opelika will benefit from people visiting the region and staying longer through home sharing. Effective Aug. 1, Airbnb will automatically collect and remit the Opelika Lodging Tax (seven percent) for taxable bookings, making the process seamless and efficient for local Airbnb hosts and the city.

“Our hosts want to pay their fair share, and we want to help,” said Tom Martinelli, Southeast policy director for Airbnb. “Our Opelika host community provides a tremendous service to the city by allowing more visitors to stay in Opelika and spend money with local businesses. This tax agreement will only enhance the economic impact and deliver a new revenue stream for the city.”

Collecting and remitting hotel taxes can be incredibly complicated. The rules were designed for traditional hospitality providers and large hotel corporations with teams of lawyers and accountants. For this reason, Airbnb has partnered with more than 370 local governments throughout the U.S. to collect and remit taxes, making the process easy for hosts to pay their fair share while contributing new revenue for local governments.

Of Airbnb’s 370 U.S. tax partnerships, this now marks the company’s fifth in Alabama. In 2016, Airbnb announced an agreement with the State of Alabama to collect state lodging taxes on all bookings throughout the state. Airbnb also has agreements with Auburn, Orange Beach and Tuscaloosa to collect their respective lodging taxes.

Nearly 1,100 Airbnb guests experienced Opelika in 2017, which reflected 157% year-over-year growth. Opelika is one of the top 15 Airbnb markets in Alabama.

The Airbnb host community provides particular value to the city via expanded lodging capacity during large events that cause local hotels to reach full capacity. For example, by far the largest surge of Airbnb guests to Opelika in the history of Airbnb’s platform occurred on November 10-11, 2017, as Auburn hosted and defeated the #2 Georgia Bulldogs.

And statewide data indicates that the home sharing community is complementing — rather than competing with — the Alabama hotel industry. According to a recent report from the Alabama Tourism Department, in 2017 Alabama hotels experienced growth in occupancy rates, prices and overall supply — in parallel with Airbnb growth.

This suggests that Alabamians sharing their homes via Airbnb are opening up the state to a new demographic of tourists by catering to travelers who are less able to afford hotels, those who desire to stay in neighborhoods or cities that lack hotels, and families who prefer to vacation together under one roof.