LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Airbnb is booming in Arkansas.
In 2016, Arkansas earned nearly $4 million in supplemental income from travelers using the service. 11 Listens received an email concerned about its growth in smaller Arkansas towns.
In quaint, quiet neighborhoods in Bryant, there are two family homes owned by Michael McNamara. He also owns one in Northwest Arkansas. All three are nearly always filled with guests from Airbnb.
“It’s a lot of local people and their families, which provides a service for Bryant, but then it’s also people that want to visit Hot Springs and Little Rock,” said McNamara. “It’s a great location for people that want to do both of those things.”
He said he also gets a lot of people visiting friends, attending family reunions, and some who have had to find a temporary home during flooding in Bryant. He said it’s an attractive option because of the low prices. For example, one of his listed homes only costs $110 a night for the entire home.
It’s not just attractive to people in the United States, either. McNamara has housed people from all over the world; from China to Mexico. But with all these people coming in and out of these homes, the city of Bryant said they have work to do on responding to Airbnb’s presence in the city.
Bryant City Attorney, Chris Madison, said the city is currently evaluating policies and will soon propose some regulations to address the use of Airbnb type residencies in the city of Bryant. He said other cities like Hot Springs and Fayetteville have clear rules and regulations in place since the company has been so prevalent there. For Bryant, it’s very new.
“Bryant doesn't have a hotel tax and so that's why we’re a little bit behind the curve on this,” said Madison. “We haven't had a financial interest and it just hasn't come up until recently.”
He said that Bryant is evaluating how other Arkansas cities regulate Airbnb. They are also looking into if there might be a financial interest for the city. He said its nearly certain that the policies will soon change.
Madison also mentioned that Airbnb conducts background checks and further vetting processes for everyone that has an Airbnb listing. Also, the company's rating system allows for both Airbnb listers and those staying in homes to be evaluated and potentially banned if there are complaints or ill practices.