Airbnb has taken a lot of heat from politicians who claim the apartment-sharing service is driving up rents and facilitating the skirting of hotel and housing laws (not to mention the horror story that recently appeared in the Times), but today Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams is touting the service’s new partnership with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
Together, the Brooklyn Chamber and Airbnb have relaunched ExploreBK, a website aimed at (as Adams describes it in a press release) “connecting tourists with all of the one-of-a-kind opportunities to enjoy everything Brooklyn has to offer, ensuring the popularity of our brand translates into prosperity for all Brooklynites.” Ah, there it is again: Brooklyn the brand!
Last month, we polled random people on Bedford Avenue and found that a whopping 1 in 3 were from outside of NYC, and many of the visitors were using Airbnb. It’s enough to make one wonder whether tourism and apartment-sharing is cannibalizing parts of Brooklyn.
Airbnb’s Global Head of Civic Partnerships, Molly Turner, seemed to nod to those concerns in a statement. “In addition to becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, Brooklyn is home to a vibrant middle-class community facing rising costs of living,” she acknowledged. “Airbnb is committed to fostering the growth of tourism in a way that benefits both small business owners and the middle class families who depend on homesharing to make it affordable for them to live in Brooklyn.”
Nearly a third of Airbnb visitors to NYC book in Brooklyn, according to an Airbnb study released in May. The study claimed that on average each Airbnb guests spend $600 in the neighborhood where they stay and in 2014 Airbnb users generated $100 million in economic activity in Brooklyn. (Despite this, the city’s investigation of illegal hotels seems to focus more on Manhattan, a WNYC study recently found.)
Though Airbnb is a primary sponsor of ExploreBK, which includes blog posts like “Bushwick yoga instructor fulfills her dream with Airbnb” (marked as sponsored) and “A day in the life of a Nostrand Avenue Airbnb host” (not marked as sponsored, though it’s noted that a version of the post originally appeared on Airbnb’s site), it’s not a complete shill: users can also book hotel rooms through Booking.com, and the Where to Stay section recommends traditional hotels like the incoming William Vale (even if, in one instance, it’s misidentified as being in East Flatbush rather than in Williamsburg).
As part of its partnership with the Brooklyn Chamber, Airbnb will also organize shmoozing events for hosts and local business owners, and it’ll fund a “Chamber community outreach organizer” to tell Brooklyn businesses how they can appeal to Airbnb’s users.
Expect advice like “put a bird on it!”