SAN DIEGO – Users of the vacation rental website Airbnb spent an estimated $71 million at San Diego restaurants over the past year, according to a study released Thursday by the company.
About half of the eateries that benefited from Airbnb customers were outside traditional San Diego hotel districts, the study found.
Overall, Airbnb clients spent $1.5 billion on restaurants in the 19 U.S. markets that were studied, with an additional $3 billion spent at overseas eateries.
“In our little neighborhood, there hasn’t been a hotel built in 50 years,” said Peter Bolter, owner of Kaiserhof in Ocean Beach.
“This is an artsy community and Airbnb opens doors for people to visit that,” Bolter said. “Visitors love that this is an alternative neighborhood to downtown with nearly all independent restaurants like ours.”
The popularity of vacation rental websites — like Airbnb, Home Away and VRBO — has exploded in recent years as travelers look for alternatives to hotel chains.
However, they’ve also caused controversy in San Diego and other cities because the rental homes sometimes attract large and loud groups. Dozens of residents, particularly from beach areas, have spoken at City Council committee meetings, asking the city to strengthen regulations on owners of rental properties.
The Airbnb survey found that users spend more money on dining than anything else while traveling, including shopping or visiting attractions.
The $71 million spent on eating out in San Diego over the past year ranks seventh in the U.S. behind New York, which leads at $470 million, Los Angeles at $236 million, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans and Seattle.