Bottom Line: Airbnb makes more money in Vermont than maple syrup does


Valley News Business Writer

Published: 02-02-2020 10:08 PM

Call it a healthy sign in how digital technology is reshaping Vermont’s economy. Or call it another dispiriting example in how making a real product just doesn’t count as much anymore.

Either way, I don’t see it as something to cheer about.

Airbnb is now a bigger moneymaker in Vermont than maple syrup production. And it didn’t take long.

Native Americans in the area were boiling sap even before “settlers” from Europe arrived a few centuries ago. Airbnb arrived in 2008.

The online rent-a-home service released its results for 2019, and they show how fast the company has bored into Vermont and New Hampshire.

Vermonters raked in a total of $68.6 million in “host income” from renting out their places last year, Airbnb reported. That’s up from $48.4 million in 2018.

Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service — sounds like an authoritative source to me — Vermont produced $54.3 million worth of maple syrup in 2018.

Maple syrup production numbers increased 7% in Vermont in 2019, but the value of the crop has not been announced.

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Some might argue that by comparing income earned from Airbnb rentals to the “production value” of maple syrup in Vermont, I’m comparing apples to oranges (or comparing 100% pure Vermont maple syrup to flavored corn syrup marketed as “pancake syrup”).

But not really. Airbnb “host income” represents pretax income that people earn from renting out their home, apartment, treehouse or yurt (it’s Vermont, remember), according to the company. And the USDA “production value” data represents all pretax retail, wholesale and bulk maple syrup sales from maple syrup produced in the state.

All told, Vermont Airbnb renters booked 444,400 “guest arrivals” in 2019. That’s equal to 64% of the state’s population and an increase of 30% from 341,370 guest arrivals in 2018.

Chittenden County, with Burlington and UVM, and Lamoille County, home to Stowe, Jay Peak and other ski resorts, had the heaviest Airbnb traffic among Vermont’s 14 counties. Airbnb operators in Chittenden pulled in $12 million in income last year with 88,800 guests while Lamoille Airbnb operators earned $11.2 million with 58,000 guests.

The Upper Valley, at least on the Vermont side, does not appear to be a popular destination. Both Windsor and Orange counties ranked near the bottom with $5.8 million and $700,000 in host income, respectively, and 35,400 guests in Windsor County and 6,800 guests in Orange County.

But Grafton County in New Hampshire — thank you, Dartmouth College parents — was the second-highest county in the Granite State for Airbnb activity in 2019, generating $12.2 million in income for hosts on 95,900 guest arrivals (tourist destination Carroll County is No. 1, with $13.1 million in revenue and 100,600 guest arrivals).

All together, New Hampshire Airbnb renters earned $45.7 million on a total of 340,100 guest arrivals, indicating that the short-term rental site has made more inroads in the Green Mountain State.

Call me a sap, but I believe that Vermont maple syrup deserves some of the credit for Airbnb’s success in Vermont. Come for the foliage, stay for the nectar of the gods.

The Mall at Hanover?

Chain store creep in downtown Hanover continues apace: FatFace, the U.K.-based retailer of casual attire, is getting ready to open a 1,181-square-foot store in the south portion of the space that had been the Canoe Club restaurant. Work crews are now wrapping up the $100,000 project.

FatFace’s arrival comes a few months after the opening of chain retailer J.McLaughlin in part of the former Dartmouth Bookstore space and precedes the Verizon outlet store relocating from South Street into the former Zimmermans The North Face store at the bottom of South Main.

South Main Street already has a J.Crew outlet and a Starbucks cafe.

Dunkin’ ducks out

Maybe no Dunkin’ in Hanover after all? Bien-pensance Hanoverians who were appalled at the prospect of a Dunkin’ planting its pink and orange standard on South Main Street — even if it was rumored to be the new “next-generation concept store” with an “innovative tap system” to serve nitro-infused cold brew coffee — might be able to sip their espressos in peace for a little longer.

Sagris Enterprises, the Hopkinton, N.H., Dunkin’ franchise owner, withdrew its site plan for a new Dunkin’ in the Nugget Arcade building where there had been a temporary exhibition gallery for the Hood Museum.

Word is, however, that Sagris hasn’t yet given up and is still searching for a central Hanover location. Dunkin’ has wanted to be back in town ever since it lost its counter inside the Circle K three years ago.

A spokesperson for Sagris said the company had no comment. Nugget Arcade owner Charles Urstadt did not reply to a message for comment.

Comings and goings

■Two new businesses have opened at the Powerhouse Mall in West Lebanon: Rylee Anne’s, a boutique owned by Rylee Preston, and Fit Body Boot Camp, a personal training center owned by Lisa Dumont, who also owns the Fit Body Boot Camp franchise in Westminster, Vt.

Fit Body is located in a new unit that was built out of underutilized space in Eastern Mountain Sports.

Preston, a 2016 graduate of Lebanon High School and currently a student at High Point University in North Carolina, is also an aspiring recording artist and has posted several music videos on YouTube. She is the daughter of Lebanon general contractor Jay Preston, owner of Preston Construction, who built out the space for her on the mall’s mezzanine level.

Still North Books, the new Hanover bookstore/bar/cafe on Allen Street that opened right before Christmas, now has its “beer, wine, and food menus going,” reports owner Allie Levy, and has expanded hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. A “grand opening” celebration is set for Feb. 15.

Flying Crow Coffee Co., the Main Street cafe in Springfield, Vt., that marked its first anniversary on Jan. 25, said it pulled 20,752 espresso shots its first year in business. Do the math.

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