Beyond Cities: How Airbnb supports rural revitalisation

Airbnb democratises tourism by bringing its economic benefits to communities that typically haven’t shared in these benefits in the past. With hosts keeping 97 percent of the listing price, and a global average of 42 percent of guest spending occurring within the neighbourhoods where they stay, the economic impact of home sharing can be significant for atypical travel destinations.

While our work with cities receives the most attention, our growth beyond cities—including in all 11 countries studied for this report—is outpacing our growth within cities as we work with local governments to support rural revitalization. Home sharing also helps communities welcome more visitors without having to invest in expensive, permanent hospitality infrastructure.

1.06 billion 2016 income for Airbnb non-urban hosts in the 11 countries studied for this report

8.5 million 2016 guest arrivals at non-urban listings in the 11 countries studied

Spain highlight

Spain’s interior reflects many of the trends afflicting rural areas around the world: agricultural jobs gradually being replaced by automation and dwindling economic opportunities to keep young people and families in the area, sending them to cities to find work and leaving behind an aging population at increasing risk of social exclusion.

  • Two out of 10 Spanish municipalities have less than 100 registered residents.
  • Across Spain, more than 3 million homes are empty.
  • €40.9 million income earned by rural hosts using Airbnb in 2016 (102 percent more)
  • Guest arrivals to rural listings in Spain have grown by 110 percent

Spain is home to one of the smaller Airbnb rural communities, but growth has been steady: rural listings have increased 63 percent year-over-year. A majority of rural Spanish hosts, 54 percent, are women and the average age of rural hosts is 46, versus an average age of 43 for city hosts.

Spanish policymakers have made a priority of developing smart policies that will yield more economic opportunities to bring young people back to rural areas and support older citizens still living there. Rural towns have limited resources to equip and market their destinations, and digital tools and sharing economy platforms can amplify the impact of smart policies. As Francesc’s experience illustrates, home sharing is providing one such opportunity as a stable source of income where such sources otherwise are scarce, while also helping to bring tourism to destinations trying to market themselves to international travelers.

Later this year, Airbnb will begin partnering with our host community, other sharing and digital economy brands, policymakers and rural towns on an initiative to support the sustainable development and promotion of innovative rural destinations. The “Lab de Destinos Rurales” (“Rural Destination Lab”) will aim to develop smart responses to the main challenges confronting Spain’s rural destinations.

Francesc, Palma de Mallorca

Francesc is a freelance web designer who decided to quit the city for rural life and is now living on the outskirts of the municipality of Palma de Mallorca and hosting travelers through Airbnb.

Airbnb opened a door of alternative opportunity for Francesc. While he was living in Berlin three years ago, he discovered the world of sustainable living and decided to go back to his native island of Mallorca to create his own small oasis. His reference for rural life is his great grandfather, who was the last member of his family to work in agriculture.

Francesc bought a piece of land and a house in poor condition and has since rebuilt it with his own hands. He owns a henhouse and a vegetable garden and hopes that one day, his home will be totally self sufficient. At the moment, he lives alone and lists one spare room on Airbnb.
 The income allows him to pursue this dream of a rural life.

At his home, Francesc’s guests find an atmosphere of peace and harmony. For many of them, it is an opportunity to help harvest crops or gather eggs for their meals for the first time! And for Francesc, home sharing is enrichment—a way to create meaningful relationships across cultures and an opportunity to meet travelers of different backgrounds who might also share his own philosophy of life.