PORTLAND, Maine — Airbnb hosts in Maine brought in more than $26 million last year, as twice as many guests booked stays through the website that lets people rent private homes and living spaces as an alternative to hotels.

The company released the revenue figure to highlight how much supplemental income its hosts received in 2016, with the majority coming to hosts in Portland.

But the data also make clear why the platform has divided Maine hoteliers and why state and local governments are eyeing their piece of the pie.

Gov. Paul LePage’s latest budget proposal specifies that any ” transient rental platform,” such as Airbnb, should collect taxes directly from in-state sales and then pass that lodging tax along to the state treasury as though it were one big hotel chain.

That’s becoming more common across the country and the world, according to the company, which collects taxes for 230 municipalities, states and countries.

“We support efforts that allow us to collect and remit taxes on behalf of our host community,” Peter Schottenfels, a company spokesman, wrote in an email.

Licensed hoteliers in Maine have raised concerns about competing with unlicensed Airbnb rentals. Some licensed hoteliers who decided they couldn’t beat it, have joined Airbnb but still have concerns about fairness, including taxing those sales at the time of booking.

The governor’s budget also proposes raising that lodging tax rate to 10 percent, up from 9 percent, as part of an effort to broaden the tax base and reap more from out-of-state tourism.

And figures from Airbnb show an increasing share of those visitors book through its short-term rental service — and there are plenty of others, such as VRBO and HomeAway.

Airbnb said about 3,700 active Maine hosts logged bookings for about 174,000 guests, double the number for 2015. The average host raked in $5,900.

The rising popularity of short-term rental sites also is pushing local governments to eye regulations. Cape Elizabeth, Bar Harbor and Rockland already have short-term rental regulations. Portland, with the largest market, is considering new regulations that would limit the number of short-term rentals in a building and set fees, starting at $100 per year, for hosts.

The data show Portland had 51,241 Airbnb guests and $7.1 million in revenue for hosts, compared with 7,101 guests and less than $1.5 million in Bar Harbor. South Portland hosts brought in less than $1 million.

The tax status of lodging sales varies by state and by individual communities, often leaving that up to hosts to manage independently.

“Occupancy tax is generally paid by the guest, but the obligation to remit the taxes to the government usually falls on the host,” the company’s website states. “We expect all hosts to familiarize themselves with and follow their local laws and regulations.”


Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.