Tourists have tens of thousands of options to consider when they visit San Diego – and many of the newest ones aren’t in traditional hotels or in parts of the city with lots of spare hotel rooms.

The city’s now home to more than 3,100 short-term rentals registered on Airbnb, and nearly half of them are in six San Diego neighborhoods: Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, La Jolla, North Park, East Village or Ocean Beach, according to San Francisco-based Beyond Pricing, which optimizes pricing for short-term rentals and Airbnb hosts.

Two factors bind each of the city’s Airbnb hotspots. They’re known for high hotel occupancies or relatively few hotels, or both.

The map raises an obvious question: What do all these Airbnb digs mean for San Diego hoteliers?

AirbnbMap

No one seems to know yet.


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“Everybody realizes there is an impact but has anybody identified it and quantified it? I don’t think so,” said Namara Mercer, executive director of the San Diego County Hotel-Motel Association.

There certainly hasn’t been a dramatic drop in hotel occupancy rates. In fact, San Diego posted record numbers last year.

That may be partly due to where Airbnb’s been most successful. There aren’t lots of spare hotel rooms in San Diego’s Airbnb meccas, particularly those close to tourists’ favorite beaches, said Bruce Baltin, a Los Angeles-based senior vice president of hospitality consulting firm PKF Consulting.

The overall number of Airbnb options, though, still pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of hotel rooms in the city. There are about 17,000 hotel rooms in downtown San Diego alone, Baltin said.

Yet there’s evidence that Airbnb could hit hoteliers hard if the company’s presence continues to grow here.

A 2014 Boston University study was one of the first to address how that might play out. The study analyzed more than 22,000 Airbnb stays in Texas and compared them with quarterly hotel revenue. Their conclusion was that a 1 percent spike in Airbnb listings translates into a 0.05 percent decrease in hotel revenues.

Lower-end hotels and those that don’t cater to business travelers were hit hardest, the researchers found.

One of the study’s authors drove home what that could mean for the industry in a February 2014 interview with industry site Hotel News Now.

A 0.05 percent revenue hit may sound inconsequential but Airbnb’s massive growth changes the game, researcher Davide Proserpio said. “Sure, if Airbnb was growing slowly 0.05 percent would be negligible, but this isn’t the case.”

Indeed, a recent Barclays report predicted Airbnb bookings could triple in the next year.

The Barclays study does note a hail of regulatory crackdowns – such as the letters and warnings going out in San Diego – could at least somewhat stifle the company’s trajectory.

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

    This article relates to: Business, Economy, Must Reads, Tourism, Tourism Economy

    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa writes about nonprofits and local progress in addressing causes like homelessness and Balboa Park’s needs. She welcomes story tips and questions. Contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

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