Beyond cities: how Airbnb is supporting rural revitalization in Italy and in the world

Mother of two wonderful girls, Faye and her husband have chosen to live in Italy on the Tuscan hills because she loves nature and was looking for a new beginning after many years spent abroad. It all started in 1999 when the couple undertook a complete restoration of an old farm, returning it to productivity. Situated on the top of Montefiesole’s hill, Lavacchio Farm is 18 km from Florence and is a typical family business, surrounded by an enchanting series of rolling hills covered with olive groves and vineyards, located between the towns of Sieci and Pontassieve.


Since restoring the farm to productivity, Faye and her family have applied the best traditions to the production of organic wine and olive oil, combining old handcrafted methods with the most modern techniques. In the park of the farm’s main house is a centuries-old cedar of Lebanon, which has become the symbol of the farm. Lavacchio Farm has been one of the first in the area to join the programs of organic production, based on the philosophy that Faye has always pursued: to harmonize the farm’s activities with the balance set by nature. She is happy to share her passion for organic products and her km0 philosophy with her guests.

Faye is one of the thousands Airbnb hosts that are opening their homes all over the world to travellers and that are benefitting from a new kind of tourism that is focused on the outskirts of the city rather than the city center, but also on rural lands and villages.

We carried out a study on the economical impact and other kind of effects of home-sharing beyond cities. At Airbnb, we believe home sharing can enable many people beyond cities to benefit directly from the tourism boom, rather than keeping the growing profits in the hands of the traditional hospitality industry. Home sharing creates a new economic opportunity where people live, supplements incomes that have stagnated and diversifies incomes that are at risk. Home sharing also helps rural communities welcome more visitors, including for major events that can bring unprecedented infusions of revenue, without having to invest in permanent infrastructures which corporate hotel chains have been disinclined to build in these areas, anyway. The estimated 2016 income for Airbnb non-urban hosts in the 11 countries studied for this report is $1.6 billion. Also, 2016 guest arrivals at non-urban listings amount to 8.5 million.

$1.6 billion 2016 income for Airbnb non-urban hosts

8.5 million guest arrivals at non-urban listings

Italy, with more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than almost any other country in the world and thousands of small villages dotting its countryside from north to south, holds immense potential to use home sharing to democratize tourism, involving more people and more communities in the tourism industry while at the same time relieving some of the pressure from the increasing flows of tourists to its largest cities.

The estimated total income for Airbnb rural hosts in Italy in the last year is € 72.3 million. Italy still holds great potential for this segment. In particular, Italy’s agriturismi, country houses and estates that grow, produce, or make food or wine, are a major asset as interest in agritourism is growing.

€ 72.3 million 2016 estimated total income for Airbnb rural hosts in Italy

74% year-over-year growth in guest arrivals in rural areas

Agri-food is incredibly important to Italy’s global image and its economy, accounting for around 8 percent of the country’s GDP. Italy is the first in Europe for PDO, PGI and TSG products and is the world’s leading wine producer. Through our “Made in Italy” campaign, Airbnb will support the Italian agri-food industry and the unique cultural heritage it represents. Made in Italy will promote genuine Italian food and call out food products that pretend to be Italian. We will customize trips to the country’s rural areas and organize visits to the leading producers of authentic Italian food. Guests will speak with local farmers about Italian food growth and production. Our goal for the campaign is to provide tourists with tools to become more conscious consumers of genuine Italian food products, preserving a tradition to help Italy build a better future.  

Also Airbnb’s “Small Villages” campaign is designed to promote tourism beyond Italy’s famous cities to these rural areas where tourism spending can make a significant difference. Home sharing gives guests a way to linger where they historically have had no accommodations due to an absence of hotels, and provides an infusion of revenue which, even if seasonal, can help sustain a village throughout the year.  In early 2017, we worked with Civita’s Mayor – a gem within the Italian villages’ scenery – to transform one of its historic buildings into an artists’ colony and Airbnb listing. “Casa d’Artista” is the first public building to be offered through the Airbnb platform, and Mayor Francesco Bigiotti is the first sitting mayor to become an Airbnb host. Revenue from bookings will help support the building’s maintenance and fund other preservation projects in the village. Read more here.

The Italian Ministry of Culture declared 2017 the year of Borghi (“small village”), and Airbnb is supporting the effort by investing further in the revitalization of more small villages beyond Civita, as well as designing a nationwide marketing campaign to help promote non-urban travel circuits.

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