Depending on who you ask, Airbnb is either a drain or a boon for - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

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Depending on who you ask, Airbnb is either a drain or a boon for Hawaii

(Image: Hawaii News Now/File) (Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

While the state debates how to tax illegal vacation bookings, a new report claims the rentals are changing the character of Hawaii's neighborhoods.

The study — commissioned by the American Hotel and Lodging Association and conducted by real estate firm CBRE — says about a quarter of multi-unit owners advertising on Airbnb are renting out 20 or more homes.

"If mom and pop want to rent out their back room, that's one thing, but they represent less than 20 percent of revenues on Airbnb," said association spokesman Kekoa McClellan.

The study also found that 85 percent of Airbnb's revenues are coming from rentals of entire homes, not single rooms or cottages.

While there are only 900 permits for vacation, there were 4,500 rentals on Airbnb.

Licensed Airbnb operator Reny Matcheva rents one-bedroom at the Ilikai Marina to supplement her income.

"We are very lucky. We are booked every month between 25 and 28 days out of the month," she said.

She's the image many have of a typical vacation rental owner, but the tourism industry study says she's actually unusual.

"On Airbnb, what we are seeing is a proliferation of illegal hotels and operators," said McClellan.

Meanwhile, Airbnb says the American Hotel and Lodging Association lacks a solid understanding of Hawaii and the Oahu market.

It said Waikiki has 47 percent of all entire home listings on the island, or 1,494 of the 3,185 total units on Oahu.

"A large number of the entire-home listings cited in the report are actually in resort-zoned Waikiki and are specifically dedicated hotel/condos," wrote Matt Middlebrook, Airbnb public policy manager.

"Often, these are listed by local AHLA members like Castle Hotels and Resorts or local real estate companies, so it would only make sense that they're operating more than one unit. These are far from illegal hotels but rather are longstanding condo/hotels that have been in existence for decades, like units in the Ilikai, Waikiki Grand, Ala Moana Hotel."

Supporters of Airbnb, meanwhile, say the demand is there and they are contributing to the economy.

"I think people like the feeling of being home. They like it that people live here and tell them places to go to," said Matcheva.

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