Sky's the limit for Airbnb in north

PRIVATE home rental service Airbnb generated £53 million last year for residents in Northern Ireland, a new industry report reveals.

Once seen as a hospitality business principally for Londoners and gap-year students, every region of the UK is now benefitting from the spare-room phenomenon.

The UK has continued to thrive as a destination on Airbnb since July 2016, with inbound guest growth of 81 per cent spread across all 12 regions, generating an estimated £3.46 billion in economic activity, including that £53 million for residents in Northern Ireland.

The company's first UK Insights Report shows that in the past year Northern Ireland represented the fastest growing Airbnb destination in the UK, with 132,000 incoming guests booking a room.

And Airbnb's continued popularity - which sees each host in Northern Ireland earn more than £2,700 on average - has seen the number of room listings in the north soar to 2,600.

When Susan from Portadown put her spare room on the site, she said she wasn't hoping for much.

“I live in a rural area so wasn't quite sure what to expect. But when an Australian couple booked by room for three nights I was pleasantly surprised,” she said.

The average host has lived in their home town for 22 years, and Susan added: “Hosting on Airbnb gives my guests an opportunity to experience Ireland from the inside out, something I seriously doubt any hotel can do.”

Airbnb said more than three quarters of their guests chose the service because they wanted to live like a local and immerse themselves in the culture. The huge variety of listings available also means there is literally something from everyone.

Unlike many who would opt to stay in a hotel and travel further afield during their visit, reports suggest that 47 per cent of guests will stay in their local neighbourhood and spent around £147 per day.

But despite the encouraging report findings, Airbnb can be a relatively hit or miss service for both guest and host.

One guest, reviewing a private room in Belfast, claimed the description was "inaccurate" as the house was yet to be fully refurbished and on arrival was "incredibly dirty".

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