St. Thomas — The holidays have arrived, with Americans traveling more than ever before. Airbnb recently announced a significant milestone in their Caribbean expansion, and that milestone was logged right here in Charlotte Amalie.
Charlotte Amalie was Airbnb’s most popular Caribbean destination in 2018 according to the booking company.
St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands has been ranked the No. 1 Caribbean destination on Airbnb – with a 600 percent increase in bookings over last year. https://t.co/1rAKXcG2ru pic.twitter.com/mJU56OQ2F9
— GovernmentHouse USVI (@govhouseusvi) October 22, 2018
The Caribbean has surpassed out other regions as the fastest growing tourist destination, a development Silicon Valley is closely following. With massive ships lining the ports of some of the most traveled routes in the Caribbean, tech companies have begun eying the white sands and turquoise waters as potential growth opportunities.
There are currently about 2,000 active listings on Airbnb in the U.S. Virgin Islands after Governor Mapp passed a landmark deal last May to expand booking services and accomodations in the Virgin Islands.
“This is good for our Government because it streamlines the collection process and enables more of our residents to participate in the visitor industry. Our hospitality sector will also greatly benefit from the promotional reach of this multibillion-dollar organization,” Mapp said.
According to Marvin Pickering, Director of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue, the treasury will benefit from the Airbnb host community’s streamlined compliance with the 12.5 percent Hotel Room Occupancy Tax. A typical Airbnb host earns about $7,700 a year.
The deal was recognized as Airbnb’s first tax collection agreement in the Caribbean. And establishes the digital and legal infrastructure for Airbnb to promote tourism in the Virgin Islands, with particular attention paid to the territory’s cultural and historical heritage, according to legal experts.
Tech companies have jumped into new industries before and completely transformed them, usually with a re-imagined product that piques the interest of masses. Airbnb is simply doing what Uber did with the taxi industry.
Apple did it with the iPhone, it’s first real foray into the mobile industry and went on to change the music industry with the introduction of iTunes. This prompted music industry legends Jay Z and Beyonce to launch a competing product — Tidal — to wedge market share away from the likes of Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.
This could be a great opportunity for Airbnb to disrupt (& surpass) the traditional hotel industry in Puerto Rico & the Virgin Islands. Big brands like #Marriott & #RitzCarlton have been (are!) incredibly slow to rebuild. https://t.co/18BDUui3xM
— Joni Vincent (@joniv) October 22, 2018
It took two short decades for Amazon to transform online shopping and turn it into a global market. Companies like Waymo and Tesla are making inroads with driverless cars, even eclipsing industry behemoths like GM and Ford with their own proprietary tech.
Airbnb is well on its way to transforming bookings and reservations online. Airbnb is likely to release more updates and stats after the holiday season and State of the Territory is preparing an in depth analysis of new forms of tech in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Stay warm this holiday season.