A travelers' discount
With the proliferation of Airbnb rentals in private homes, travelers can immerse themselves in neighborhoods that are often overlooked by hotel-goers and absent from tourist itineraries. And the more those tourists inundate local neighborhoods, the more they frequent local businesses. Now Multnomah Village is seizing on the opportunity, hoping to lure new customers through a unique partnership that is the first of its kind in Portland. The Multnomah Business Association is collaborating with Airbnb and local Airbnb hosts to initiate a discount program in which Airbnb travelers can buy items at local shops for discounted prices. Participating businesses owners decide the discounts they'll offer independently. The program began on Aug. 1, and 24 businesses had signed up as of early October. In July, Airbnb hosted a mixer at Riversgate Church to jumpstart the program, and Multnomah Business Association president Jason Lensch estimated that 30 hosts and 30 business leaders attended. "Anything that helps bring the community experience together more would really be a benefit to everybody," Multnomah resident and Airbnb host Deborah Honthaner said. "Of course, not all of your guests end up coming into the
Village because they've got other things they want to do, but when people came into the Village they really loved it." The partnership idea began in the summer of 2016, when Airbnb hosted another mixer in Multnomah Village. There, Lensch learned about the pervasiveness of Airbnb in Portland and its potential for stimulating economic activity. For instance, the typical Airbnb traveler staying in Portland spends $804 per visit — 40 percent of which they spend in the neighborhood where they're lodging, according to an Airbnb economic activity report. "Airbnb guests want to live like a local, and that's why they want to stay in an Airbnb," said Airbnb representa
tive Laura Rillos. "We find Airbnb brings visitors to neighborhoods that aren't traditionally benefited by tourism. The majority of our listings are outside of downtown. They stay longer and spend more than people staying at hotels." The Airbnb program is ostensibly an extension of the Village's golden ticket program, in which shoppers who buy items at certain businesses can earn discount tickets redeemable at other businesses during the holiday season. "My philosophy is to better the whole Village business community. However I can do that from a marketing standpoint and make the experience pleasurable and exciting and fun, that's ultimately going to benefit all of the businesses," Lensch said. Lensch, whose store "Switch" offers a 20 percent discount on full-price items, urged the Airbnb staff to give businesses discount flexibility rather than imposing one allencompassing discount. "Each business, just like with the golden ticket, can do whatever they want. They can change it depending on inventory levels, or whatever they feel," Lensch said. Weary of the stresses of her job as an occupational therapist, Honthaner decided to retire in 2014. To supplement her decreased income, she decided to become an Airbnb host. She now has two available living spaces and hosts guests frequently.
"As long as I had a house, it seemed like an easier thing to do than to go find some other job," Honthaner said. Honthaner attends a local Airbnb host meetup group and connected with Lensch and an Airbnb representative in the spring. She has lived in Multnomah since 1981 and knows a number of local business owners personally, so directing guests to local shops comes naturally to her. "I think the more we can promote these businesses, the better off we are. Even before I did Airbnb, I've just really liked knowing my shopkeepers here. Some of my favorite stores are right here in the Village. I've known these peo
ple for over 20 years and keep frequenting their businesses because I like to be here," Honthaner said. Although not all AirBnb hosts are as immersed in the community as Honthaner, such knowledge is valuable to Airbnb guests. The mixer allowed hosts and local business owners to intermingle, and the Multnomah Business Association has recently created maps of the Village that show where participating businesses are located. The initiative is still in its infancy, but Lensch and Honthaner hope to increase synchronicity between all parties involved so that hosts can promote the program to
guests more effectively. "I think it's just going to take a little time for people to really get in the habit of talking it up and promoting it," Honthaner said. Lensch believes the program will have a positive impact on local commerce and that travelers will enjoy their time in the Village. "The Village has a ton of great things to offer, and I feel confident travelers who do come to the Village and Southwest will be very pleased and want to come back," he said.