Beaufort Co. Airbnb hosts made over $15 million in 2018. Here’s how much local governments got

As Beaufort County continues to boom economically, the increase in visitors staying in the rooms or homes of host residences has almost doubled, according to one short-term-rental company.

Airbnb announced last week that hosts in Beaufort County made $15.4 million in rentals last year and attracted 86,000 visitors. The guest number nearly doubled the 46,000 guests who in 2017 booked through the company’s website and app.

Beaufort County ranks third in the state for Airbnb host revenue. The county trails Horry County, where hosts made $19.2 million and had 131,000 guests, and Charleston County, where hosts collected $54.9 million and had 306,000 guests, according to an Airbnb news release.

Active hosts have also increased in the county from 900 in 2017 to 1,100 in 2018, according to Ben Breit, who works for Airbnb’s public affairs office.

A majority of the homes and rooms available to rent locally are on Hilton Head Island and in the Bluffton area, but all county municipalities are working to regulate the growing industry.

“We want to make sure that (hosts) are in compliance with the rules and regulations (of each municipality), and also for safety reasons,” Hannah Horne, vice president of public policy and programs for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday. “I don’t see it going away. I just want to see it monitored and its growth come into compliance .... with the current regulations.”

Assistant Hilton Head town manager Josh Gruber said Thursday that Airbnb hosts, along with other short-term-rental hosts, need to have a business license and file accommodation taxes so the town benefits from the rentals.

“A lot of it is people who may buy property and aren’t familiar with the local laws,” Gruber said.

The town’s finance department cross references properties registered on Airbnb and sites like it with those registered as rentals with the town. If a property isn’t registered, the town will alert homeowners and direct them on how to register.

The town collected $3,543,910 in accommodations taxes from short-term rentals during the 2018 fiscal year, according to John Troyer, the town’s finance director.

Bluffton collected $146,360 in accommodations taxes for short-term rentals during the 2018 fiscal year, according to Debbie Szpanka, the town’s public relations director.

Beaufort County collected $848,545 in taxes from unincorporated parts of the county during that same time period, according to Edra Stevens, the county’s business license director.

Beaufort collected $46,550 in accommodations taxes in 2018, and estimates that number will rise to $52,350 when the city’s deadline to file those taxes ends Jan. 20, according to Justin Rose, the city’s business license inspector.

Port Royal does not yet have the ability to separate short-term rental accommodations taxes from other forms of accommodations taxes, according to Chris Canaday, of the town’s financial department.

The funds are used for various purposes, but mainly to support local tourism. Hilton Head also uses a percentage of its collection for beach preservation.

Here’s a breakdown of the rules governing local short-term rentals: