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MSU football drives Airbnb boom in, around Starkville

 

Bob

Bob "Pop" Taylor has seen steady success with his Airbnb during Mississippi State football games. Taylor's Airbnb is located near Crawford. Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff

 

Alex Holloway

 

 

Bob "Pop" Taylor started using Airbnb for an upstairs apartment above his barn in 2014 as an alternative to renting to college students. 

 

Taylor, who is retired from working sales, said he moved into the bottom floor of the barn which he turned into his home, complete with a game room and bar area. But the upstairs sat empty, and he didn't want to deal with college students always around the house.  

 

Four years later, Taylor's Airbnb, "Pop's Country Getaway" is one of the most popular and highly-rated in the Starkville area. Taylor said renting the apartment on Airbnb started slowly, but one thing has always been consistent -- Mississippi State University home football weekends. 

 

"Game weekends have always been automatic," he said. 

 

Airbnb allows users to rent out their properties -- which can be an entire building or a portion of it -- to guests. The service uses an online marketplace where guests can browse available listings and book in advance. 

 

Taylor said he's never missed a guest on a home football weekend since he started hosting in 2014. This weekend's MSU game against the University of Arkansas is the first, due to a guest canceling late in the week.  

 

But through the years, as his Airbnb has grown in popularity for use outside of football weekends, Taylor said MSU's home games have always been a bedrock, and he said they go early. 

 

"They go three or four months out," he said. "If you wait 'til the last minute, you will not get one here." 

 

Taylor is one of dozens of Airbnb hosts in the Starkville area who have seen a boom in businesses from MSU football games. 

 

According to a press release Airbnb issued during the week, Starkville hosts have welcomed more than 1,700 guests during home football games this fall -- a number which included a projected 290 guests for Saturday's game against Arkansas. 

 

Those guest arrivals have generated more than $240,000 total in supplemental income for Airbnb hosts. Airbnb projected that Arkansas visitors would generate about $40,000 in income for hosts. 

 

Visitors using the service peaked for the University of Florida game, with 330 guests generating $56,000 the weekend of Sept. 28-29. MSU's game against Texas A&M University on the weekend of Oct. 26-27 drew 300 guests and generated $51,000. 

 

While Airbnb's figures are for hosts within Starkville's city limits, and Taylor's Airbnb is located near Crawford about 15 minutes south of MSU, Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit said it's not surprising to see that Taylor, and other hosts near Starkville, have benefitted in the same way. 

 

"We do expect there would be some trickle down," he said. "It really just speaks to the popularity of those weekends if even towns outside of Starkville are benefitting." 

 

 

 

A growing business 

 

Jennifer Prather, interim CEO of The Partnership, said Airbnb use has blossomed in recent years in Starkville. She said the growing use of the service allows some relief to hotels, which are often packed well in advance of MSU game weekends. 

 

"(Airbnb) gives a more personalized experience," Prather said. "It lets visitors get to know the people and the feel and culture of Starkville." 

 

Airbnb also voluntarily collects sales and tourism taxes in Mississippi, which includes Starkville's two percent tax. 

 

Breit said the company has been collecting taxes for about a year. In total, Airbnb has delivered more than $1 million in revenue to the state of Mississippi, which more than quadruples its original projection of $245,000. 

 

Prather said Airbnb collecting taxes is another way the use of the company can benefit Starkville. 

 

"(It allows) us the opportunity to expand our tax base even when our hotels are at capacity," Prather said. 

 

 

 

'The hobby of meeting people' 

 

Taylor, who averages 10-12 rentals per month, said MSU's football games are a solid foundation for drawing guests but they're not the only attraction. He said MSU draws a lot of visitors in general, including for baseball games in the spring. 

 

"We get Mississippi State people for a lot of things," he said. "They're moving their kids into Mississippi State or moving their kids out of Mississippi State. They're down here because their kids have a function at Mississippi State and they're looking for a different experience." 

 

The Mississippi Blues Trail, which has nearby locations in Columbus, West Point, Crawford and Ackerman, also draws a lot of visitors, he said. 

 

"I'll get somebody coming from New Jersey traveling to Amarillo," Taylor said. "Just in one night. You'll get some of those. Then you'll get people who are traveling for two nights just because they want to stop somewhere for a couple of days and they'll pick out a country setting." 

 

Taylor's Airbnb is located on a 40-acre property, surrounded by pasture. He said there are trails into the woods behind the house, where guests can see deer and turkeys, and the family's cat and two dogs that roam the property are often mentioned in reviews. 

 

He said he tries to be as accommodating as possible to guests and prepares as if his own mother were coming to stay with him. 

 

While renting the property is an income generator, at $65 per night, he said he's more interested in meeting the people who have come through, from European college students or a Chinese doctor to people who live in Starkville and sometimes stay to spend some time out of the city. 

 

"It's not as much about the income to me as it is the hobby of meeting people from all over the world," he said. "You get all kinds of stories. We've had a lot of experiences, but they're all good."

 

 

 

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