Local business gets a boost from Airbnb 

For centuries, San Francisco has been a destination for entrepreneurs and individuals looking to create a new business and build a new life for themselves. And while today we’re best known as the home of big companies and fast-growing tech startups, small businesses are still the backbone of San Francisco’s economy.

You can find them all across The City — from the Sunset to the Financial District — and they are as diverse as San Francisco itself, reflecting the unique cultural offerings of each neighborhood. For most, their only means of advertising is word of mouth and foot traffic. That’s why Airbnb has become such an important lifeline for local businesses.

Alexandra Kenin started a small business that offers localized tours across The City. Alexandra’s contagious energy and love of the city she calls home has helped countless Airbnb guests experience San Francisco like a local, and they have helped her business thrive. Restaurant owner Greg Lutes not only regularly welcomes Airbnb guests into his Bernal Heights popup, he even had an Airbnb host design his restaurant logo.

And local laundromat owners — like Dave dos Santos, owner of Potrero Laundry — have seen a boost in their business from hosts preparing their listings for new guests and from guests doing laundry on their trips. Businesses like these are what make this city strong, and they are thriving thanks to Airbnb — even in unexpected places.

In fact, 72 percent of Airbnb listings are off the beaten path, and outside of traditional tourist hot spots, so visitors are more likely to visit a restaurant in Cole Valley or a shop in the Mission.

That means communities that have long been overlooked and left out of the tourism business are now reaping the rewards. And newcomers to The City get a more authentic taste of our diverse neighborhoods.

Visitors who travel here on Airbnb are also more likely to stay longer and spend more, bringing huge economic benefits to the city. In fact, a recent study found Airbnb contributed more than $469 million to the San Francisco economy last year.

Airbnb’s support comes at a critical time. As more people flock to The City, housing supply has not kept up with growing demand. As a result, skyrocketing rent and real estate prices have made it hard for small businesses to stay afloat and families to stay in their homes. Airbnb has proven to be a critical source of extra income for many families who rent out a spare room or their home when they’re out of town to help make the rent.

While nearly 70 percent of San Franciscans support home sharing, technology often moves faster than government. The City needs to avoid overburdensome home-sharing regulations that can be confusing and intimidating.

Efforts to overregulate the peer-to-peer economy jeopardize the tremendous benefits that platforms like Airbnb bring to our city. Doing this right requires a smart, measured approach. Recent proposals, which would effectively ban home sharing in The City, are wrongheaded and misguided. We should be making it easier, and not harder, for regular people, subject to reasonable regulations, to share their homes and contribute to their livelihood and our community.

Whether it is the cafe on the corner or the laundromat down the street, small businesses are one of our most vital assets. Their success depends on the health of the communities around them, and by helping more families stay in San Francisco, Airbnb is ensuring that small businesses can, too.

Bob Linscheid is president and CEO of Chamber of Commerce and Jim Lazarus is senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce.

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