What are the economic and cultural benefits of tourism. What are the downsides to too much tourism. How to find the right balance.
Topics covered include:
- How short-term rentals have changed tourism
- How cities grapple with too many short-term rentals
- What is the outlook for short-term rentals
- How much does tourism contribute to economic output
- How can tourism be harmful and helpful
- The example of Cuba
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Welcome to Money for the Rest of Us. This is a personal finance show on money, how it works, how to invest it, and how to live without worrying about it. I’m your host, David Stein. Today is episode 456. It’s titled “Is Tourism Harmful or Helpful? The Economic and Cultural Impact of Global Travel.”
I’ve been putting together a trip with LaPriel, my daughter, and son-in-law. We’re going to Yucatan, Mexico. This is a gift for my daughter and son-in-law for graduating from university. We’re heading to Yucatan. My son-in-law is a photographer, and he wanted to visit the town of Campeche. It’s a historical—I think it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site town. Beautiful town, we’ve been there several times. That’s one of the places he wanted to go, and my daughter wanted to go explore the rainforests, particularly down near the ruins of Calakmul.
One of the places we’re going to stay is Valladolid. This is a beautiful town in the Yucatan, amazing history. And I used to live there back in the mid-’80s, and I’ve been back five or six times. Typically, I’ve stayed at the Hotel Meson de Marques, which is right there in the center square, across from the cathedral.
But the last two times I’ve stayed in Valladolid I’ve rented through Airbnb. I’ve looked at rates for the Hotel Meson de Marques; they wanted $258 a night for a room. Now, it’s a nice hotel, the dinner is great in the courtyard there, but it seemed a little pricey. So I booked an Airbnb. Two bedrooms, two bath, in a quiet area of the town that I know. $150 per night, including fees and taxes.
Since 2013 I’ve stayed over 90 times using Airbnb, in over 15 countries. I have also stayed at hotels; probably more hotels than Airbnbs. We go back and forth, depending on how economical it is, and convenient, how large our party is. When it’s our entire family, we tend to rent Airbnbs.
There were times when hotels are more economical, such as during the pandemic. We stayed at four or five-star hotels for the rates you would typically pay for a two or three-star hotel. This summer hotels have been much more expensive, and Airbnb has been more economical.
And looking at Valladolid, there are 833 places to stay in Valladolid, renting a short-term rental on Airbnb. Is that a lot? I was trying to figure out, well, what’s reasonable? There are just over 56,000 people that live in Valladolid. There’s 15,000 housing units, and the one statistic, the one way that I saw to measure Airbnb density was how many Airbnb units are there per 1,000 residents? And looking at Valladolid, with 833 places to rent 56,000 people—that’s around 15 Airbnbs per 1,000 residents.
If we look at other areas—this is some data from Statista—the most highly dense area for Airbnbs was Hawaii, at 22.4. New Orleans was second at 19, and then Austin was about the same as Valladolid at 15. And so there’s a lot of Airbnbs in Valladolid, and it’ll be interesting to see how the town has changed since we last stayed there in 2017. When I looked to book Airbnbs in 2014 there were very few available.
But there is some benefit of having so many Airbnbs, is that there are places in Valladolid—and I’m familiar with, for example, the road out to the small Mayan village, Uaymas, that there’s old haciendas that have been restored, or other houses that have been restored to make into short-term rentals.
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