There is a rising alternative to working as a greeter in Wal-Mart: Airbnb contends nearly half of its Florida vacation-rental and home-sharing hosts are seniors, adding $150 million to their incomes in 2017.

In a new report released Thursday morning, the vacation rental home marketing giant shows 45 percent of its 40,000 hosts in Florida are 55 or older, indicating the home-sharing industry has become a big source of supplemental income for Floridians in or nearing retirement. They earned more than $150 million in rent last year, Airbnb reported.

The trend is pronounced in southwest Florida, where sizable majorities of Airbnb home-sharing hosts or vacation rental owners are old enough to be empty-nesters with bedrooms or whole houses to rent out for vacationers’ short-term stays.

In Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, and Marco Island more than 60 percent of Airbnb hosts are over 55, and more than half in Naples and Fort Myers. Seniors also make up 63 percent of the hosts in Saint Augustine, the company reported.

That’s not the case in Central Florida, where the industry is enormous. In Kissimmee, 37 percent of Airbnb hosts are seniors, and in Orlando, 29 percent are.

Airbnb says senior hosts are the fastest-growing segment of their business base. All totaled, 18,000 Florida hosts age 55 or older are in Airbnb’s portfolio, adding an average of $6,400 a year to their incomes, according to the company’s report.

“We’re happy to see seniors throughout our state utilizing technology to take full economic advantage of their properties and sustain their retirements,” Jeffrey Bragg, secretary of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, stated in a news release issued by Airbnb. “Under the Scott administration, we will continue to support the efforts of private sector platforms like Airbnb to facilitate economic opportunities for older Floridians.”

In the same news release, Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida state director, said the home-rental business is providing more than just money for many older Floridians.

“Many older Floridians are realizing that sharing their home provides benefits like preventing isolation, which itself is a significant risk to physical and mental health, while offering the opportunity to continue to learn and grow by encountering new ideas and cultures that come from interaction with other people,” Johnson said. “Several models of home-sharing, from online platforms to old-fashioned roommate-hunting, provide the additional benefit of revenue or cost-sharing for older home owners, allowing them financial security and the ability to age in place.”

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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