ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- The Rockford Airbnb host community earned $300,000 and welcomed approximately 2,200 guests to the city this year.
"A lot of people want to come downtown, but there's nothing available for them, so this is a great experience for them,” says Airbnb host owner Sandi Kohn.
Kohn opened up two apartment lofts she owns downtown Rockford to the public exactly one year ago.
"I initially thought that I didn't really want to have a lot of people coming in and out of the apartments," says Kohn who used to just rent out her apartments to people.
A friend of hers convinced her last year to try Airbnb. Within one year with the business, Kohn says she has already made $28,000 on her two units.
"I doubled the rent roll of the apartments; my goal is to triple the rent roll of the apartments next year. The website is fantastic at bringing you customers. I hardly ever advertised the Airbnb on anything other than the website and my first year was incredibly successful,“ says Kohn.
About 30 people in the Rockford area are sharing their homes with Airbnb. About half those hosts simply just share an extra or unused room in their homes. Rockford is now the number 10 home sharing market in Illinois, according to the Airbnb Company.
"Airbnb offers a homey, personal experience that provides them a kitchen and the privacy that you don't find in a hotel, and economically it can be to their advantage," says AIrbnb host owner Bill Edmundson.
Statewide data indicates that Airbnb’s appear to be complementing the Illinois hotel industry, rather than competing because the demand for hotel rooms was also up this year.
"Hotel occupancy in Winnebago County for 2017 was strong throughout the year. More than 575,000 unique hotel rooms were filled, occupancy was up and demand was also up," says John Groh, the president, and CEO of the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Groh explains, “It’s been a strong year for tourism, business travel is up, long-term stays for contract related work is up, tournament traffic and leisure has also been up throughout the year which requires additional hotel stays.”
Airbnb offers travelers who want to stay in neighborhoods or cities that lack hotels different options.
"The more choices visitors have, the stronger our visitor economy will be," says Groh.
"If you're going to do it, do not to expect huge volumes of money right away either,” says Kohn. She explains it’s a lot of work cleaning to make sure they are always in good shape. You also have to constantly be available to guests when they need you.
“It’s a business you have to work at. A nice, clean, safe place to stay seems to be the biggest concern of everybody, but it’s fun, and you do get to meet a lot of people," says Kohn.
Back in September, Airbnb announced a tax agreement with Rockford. It allows the platform to collect and remit the 5 percent Rockford hotel/motel tourism tax on behalf of its hosts, which will generate new revenue for the city.