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Tourism is a vital economic driver here in Edmond.
More than interesting and attractive things to do, tourism promotes economic development, investment, creates jobs and nurtures inclusion and a strong sense of community.
That’s why the City of Edmond invests in and encourages the growing tourism menu available in the community.
But, to do that takes funding, and in Edmond that comes in the form of a 4 percent lodging tax, which, up until July 2021, was only collected during a stay at one of Edmond’s 14 hotels.
But, with the growth of online vacation home booking sites like Airbnb, there’s been an industry-wide shift in the way visitors like to stay. Hotel rooms please travelers who like brand consistency, reward points and loyalty programs. Other travelers are choosing vacation homes for a homelike experience, full kitchens, yard for animals and local flavor. Edmond has more than 70 vacation homes listed on Airbnb.
The new additional lodging tax revenue collected from thousands of visitors each year is important because it funds tourism. Annually, lodging tax generates approximately $650,000 to help market Edmond as a destination and attract conferences, meetings, events and tournaments with grants or scholarships.
Edmond’s Hotel Tax Ordinance pre-dated the birth of Airbnb and other short-term rental travel sites, so these properties were not required to collect a lodging tax from visitors. After extensive research, Visit Edmond and its Tourism Advisory Board decided including vacation homes in an updated Lodging Tax Ordinance would not only be a new source of revenue to help fund tourism, but it would also level the playing field for both hotels and vacation homes.
Edmond City Council approved the Lodging Tax Ordinance in March 2021 and it went into effect in July 2021. Currently, only Airbnb collects taxes from guests. According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, VRBO will begin collecting lodging tax soon.
“I believed and voted for charging Airbnb guest’s lodging tax in Edmond,” said David Chapman, City Councilmember and owner of eight Airbnbs in Edmond. “Our success in the short-term rental business depends on occupancy. I can’t think of a better way to increase and maintain occupancy than partnering with Visit Edmond.
"Currently we are seeing high occupancy due to the boom in the housing market. People are selling homes and needing a temporary place while building or house-hunting. That will not always be the case. The housing market will normalize and the demand will wane for short-term rentals for that purpose. At that point we will be looking for occupancy due to tourism. That is where the real value of the tax and our partnership will be evident.”
Including vacation homes in the city’s lodging tax ordinance means Visit Edmond has more resources to bring more visitors to Edmond. It has also fostered relationships between property owners and tourism leaders.
“The recent connection with Visit Edmond has increased my awareness of all that we have to offer as a city,” said Brandy Penland, owner of Gate House Airbnb and a Tourism Board member. “As an Airbnb host, it is important to meet our leaders and other hosts in the community. My business thrives when the community around me thrives. My knowledge and awareness of upcoming events, parks and recreation offerings, and local restaurants is huge when inviting people to stay at The Gate House Airbnb.”
Visit Edmond organizes quarterly Airbnb Happy Hours. There, members of the Airbnb community can swap stories, share best practices, talk about the best house cleaners, how to price properties, and so much more. The goal is to build a “community over competition” mindset that will help guests see Edmond as a destination and community they want to visit.
Edmond Airbnb owners can join our community by contacting Jennifer Seaton, Tourism Director, at email@example.com, following Visit Edmond on social media or calling 405-216-7781.